July 14, 2024

South Africa, Mexico and Chile call for intervention in Gaza

Mexico and Chile have requested the investigation of Israel’s potential crimes against Palestinian civilians following South Africa’s International Court of Justice case, in which South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Since the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, where nearly 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed, Israel has imposed a continuous series of air raids in the Gaza strip. The strip has been under the governing authority of Hamas since 2007, but was also home to around two million Palestinian civilians. 

The air raids, followed by ground operations using tanks and armored vehicles, have resulted in around 27,000 Palestinian deaths and 67,000 injuries in Gaza.

Gaza has become nearly inhabitable because of damage done to the strip. Israel has instructed civilians to move to designated “safe areas” in the days prior to planned air strikes, displacing almost two million Palestinian citizens. 

These citizens have faced crisis levels of food insecurity, as well as little to no access to water, fuel or medication. Additionally, there are only seven remaining hospitals in Gaza, all of which are only partially functioning.

On Dec. 29, 2023, South Africa filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claiming Israel has violated the 1984 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide through their acts against Palestinian civilians. South Africa’s filing cited the killing of Palestinians, physical destruction of the group and mental and bodily harm as Israel’s genocidal acts.

Israel denies these allegations, claiming self-defense against Hamas as an explanation for the exorbitant number of militant air strikes and the lack of humanitarian aid in the past months. 

“…I don’t think there are many people who would argue that the Israeli forces haven’t committed war crimes in Gaza, but genocide is beyond that,” said university political science professor Dr. Kevin Lucas. “It’s not just carelessly or recklessly killing a few tens of thousands of civilians, but it’s the intent, you know, is the intent to eliminate this entire population?”

During the ICJ hearing on Jan. 26, 2024, the 15-person court voted for Israel to implement provisional measures to prevent further genocidal actions. These actions include taking measures to prevent killing Palestinians, causing mental or bodily harm, causing physical destruction to the group and preventing births. 

Additionally, the court voted that Israel should prevent and punish genocidal actions against Palestinians in the Gaza strip. Israel was also instructed to allow immediate and effective measures to get humanitarian assistance to Palestinian citizens.

In the initial filing, South Africa demanded the ICJ issue an emergency suspension of Israel’s military, but this was not upheld by the court.

On Jan. 18, 2024, following South Africa’s filing, Mexico and Chile requested an investigation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) into Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians. 

This request was based on Israel’s recent escalation of violence, specifically against Palestinian civilians, along with other reports from the United Nations that detail crimes against civilians.

“Israel has said that its objective is to eliminate the entirety of Hamas leadership and, you know, the way they’ve been doing that is by coordinating off sections of the Gaza strip, trying to give civilians warnings of like ‘Okay, we’re going to turn this corner of your homeland to sand tomorrow, so leave now,’ and they’ll bomb everything,” said Lucas. “Eventually, Israel will have destroyed every square meter of the Gaza strip.”

Although Israel does not fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, Palestine has been a part of the Roman Statute of the ICC since 2015, therefore allowing the ICC to investigate crimes occurring in Palestinian territory.

In addition to the current international cases, many countries around the world have called for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

During an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Dec. 8, 2023, the 15 U.N. members voted on whether there should be a ceasefire in Gaza. While 13 members voted in favor of the ceasefire and one abstained, the United States vetoed the motion. 

“…the historic relationship between Israel and the U.S., when we engaged in warfare in the early 21st century in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel voted in favor of our authorization of the use of force out of self-defense,” said Dr. Martin Claar, an international relations professor at the university. “…I don’t want to put it in terms of payback, but it’s payback.”

Because of the United States’ financial and military interest in Israel, it is unlikely the U.S. will join South Africa, Mexico and Chile in their call for action against the conflict in Gaza.

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