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Israel faces genocide charges at World Court; Gazans return to wasteland

Israel faced accusations of genocide in the Gaza war at the World Court on Thursday, as the first inhabitants returned to the northern region from which Israeli forces began to withdraw, leaving behind a scene of utter devastation.

Three months of Israeli shelling have devastated much of the narrow coastal enclave, killing more than 23,000 people and forcing nearly the entire Palestinian population of 2.3 million to flee their homes.

Israel's blockade has severely limited supplies of food, fuel and medicine, creating what the United Nations calls a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel says its only option to protect itself is to eliminate Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, and on October 7, fighters vowing to destroy Israel attacked Israeli communities, killing 1,200 people. They killed people and took 240 hostages.

Israel condemns any harm to civilians caused by Hamas' activities, which Hamas denies.

The lawsuit, filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accuses Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention, established in response to the genocide of Jews in the Holocaust. . The Convention obligates all countries to ensure that such crimes never occur. repeated.

On the day of the trial, people sit inside the International Court of Justice to listen to South Africa's request for emergency measures, asking the court to order Israel to cease military operations in Gaza on January 11, 2024. Reuters

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Israeli government spokesman Eilon Levy likened the case to a centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that falsely accused Jews of ritually killing infants, saying: Ta. and legal cover for the rapist regime of Hamas. ”

Amer Salah, 23, who took refuge at a United Nations school in the southern Gaza Strip after fleeing his home, told Reuters that Gazans feared the incident would eventually lead to international pressure on Israel to end the war. He said he was looking forward to it.

“Israel has always been a state above the law. They did what they did in Gaza because they knew they would go unpunished as long as America was on their side. It's time to change that,” he said. Said.

People mourn next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on January 10, 2024, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues. Reuters

“We want to honor South Africa and stop the war and allow the courts to do that.”

A preliminary hearing this week will consider whether to order Israel to cease fighting while the court investigates the full scope of the case.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country was seeking to sue over the “ongoing genocide of Gaza residents”, motivated by South Africa's own history of apartheid.

A Palestinian girl who survived an Israeli attack is carried by her father next to the bodies of relatives killed in the attack in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on January 10, 2024. Reuters

The United States said Israel must do more to reduce civilian casualties, but called the genocide allegations “unfounded.”

“In fact, it is those who violently attack Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the genocide of the Jewish people,” said State Department spokesman Matt Miller.

“We call on the court to reject all pressure and take a decision that criminalizes the Israeli occupation and stops the invasion of Gaza,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. .

A woman holds a placard during the Bo-Kaap prayer for success in the South African government's case against genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on January 10, 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa. Reuters

“A failure to achieve justice, a failure in the court's role, will result in the occupation forces continuing their genocidal war against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

“Gaza will be rebuilt. We will rebury the dead.”

Since the new year, Israel has announced a new phase in the war, saying it would begin drawing down troops in the northern half of the Gaza Strip, where the offensive began in October.

Still, fighting has only intensified in the southern region, where Israel extended its ground war last month and nearly all Gaza residents have sought refuge.

The Israeli military said the main operation was currently taking place in Khan Yunis, the largest city in the south.

Palestinians gather next to a damaged vehicle as they inspect the scene of an Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on January 10, 2024. Reuters

Due to the relative quiet in the north, small numbers of inhabitants begin to trickle back into the vanished cities, often finding moonscapes without any trace of where their homes once were.

Freelance journalist Youssef Fares filmed himself walking through wasteland surrounded by charred ruins that were once part of Gaza City, home to nearly a million people.

Several civilians were making their way along the road, some staggering across the dirt road on their bicycles.

“Every home in sight has been completely or partially destroyed,” he said.

“We are now coming to the old cemetery of Tafua, which is more than 100 years old. All those graves have been dug up and run over by Israeli bulldozers and tanks. I'm here to look for the body.”

Back near Gaza City, Abu Aish told Reuters by phone that the destruction “was like an earthquake.”

“I will tell[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin]Netanyahu that Gaza will be rebuilt, we will build homes and rebury our dead.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: No intention to reoccupy Gaza

The U.S. government supports Israel's military operations on grounds of self-defense, while calling on its allies to scale back the war, redouble efforts to protect civilians, and preserve hopes for a future independent Palestinian state.

This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials and leaders of neighboring Arab states, defending Israel's campaign to eradicate Hamas, and promoting recognition of Israel. He called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israel is vague about its ultimate intentions, but wants to maintain security control of Gaza indefinitely and exercises limited autonomy in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which was separated from Gaza by Hamas in 2007. He says he will not give it to the ousted PA.

Some far-right members of Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition have openly called for Palestinians to leave Gaza and for Israelis to settle there permanently.

In a post on X, Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted that this was not Israel's objective.

“Let me be absolutely clear on a few points: Israel has no intention of occupying Gaza permanently or displacing civilians,” he wrote. “Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian people, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.”

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