The war between Israel and Hamas: The International Court of Justice begins a hearing on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations' highest court opens historic hearings Monday on the legality of Israel's 57-year-long occupation of territory it seeks to establish a Palestinian state, bringing the 15 international judges back to the heart of Israel's decades-old court. – The Palestinian conflict.

Hearings are scheduled to be held at the International Court of Justice for six days, during which an unprecedented number of countries will participate, as Israel continues its destructive operations. The aggression against Gaza.

Although the case takes place against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas, it instead focuses on Israel's open occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian representatives, who will speak first on Monday, said the Israeli occupation is illegal because it violates three key principles of international law, the Palestinian legal team told reporters on Wednesday.

They say Israel violated the ban on territorial invasion by annexing large swaths of occupied territory, violated the Palestinians' right to self-determination, and imposed a system of apartheid and apartheid.

Omar Awadallah, head of the United Nations Organizations Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “We want to hear new words from the court.”

He added: “They had to take into account the word genocide in the case of South Africa,” referring to A Separate case In front of court. “Now we want them to think about segregation.”

Awadallah said that the court’s advisory opinion “will give us many tools, using the methods and tools of peaceful international law, to confront the violations of the occupation.”

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The court is likely to take months to rule. But experts say the resolution, while not legally binding, could profoundly affect international jurisprudence, international aid to Israel and public opinion.

“The case will bring before the court a series of accusations, allegations and grievances that may be uncomfortable and embarrassing for Israel, given the war and the already highly polarized international environment,” said Yuval Shani, a law professor at Hebrew University. He is a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Israel is not scheduled to speak during the sessions, but may provide a written statement. Shani said that Israel would likely justify its continued occupation on security grounds, especially in the absence of a peace agreement.

This likely refers to the October 7 attack in which Hamas-led militants from Gaza killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and dragged 250 hostages to the Strip.

“There is a narrative that the territories from which Israel withdraws, such as Gaza, could turn into very serious security risks,” Shani said. He added: “If anything, it is that October 7 has highlighted the traditional Israeli security logic to justify never-ending occupation.”

But the Palestinians and Leading human rights groups They say that the occupation goes beyond defensive measures. They say it has turned into an apartheid regime, supported by the construction of settlements on occupied land, that gives Palestinians second-class status and aims to maintain Jewish dominance from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Israel rejects any accusation of apartheid.

The case reaches the court after the UN General Assembly voted by a large majority in December 2022 to ask the world court to issue a non-binding advisory opinion on… One of the world's longest and thorniest conflicts. The Palestinians promoted this request and Israel strongly opposed it. Fifty countries abstained from voting.

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In a written statement before the vote, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, described the measure as “disgraceful,” the UN as “morally bankrupt and politicized” and any potential court decision as “completely illegitimate.”

After the Palestinians present their arguments, 51 countries and three organizations – the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union – will speak before the panel of judges in the wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice.

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the three regions. Israel considers the West Bank a disputed area whose future should be determined through negotiations.

It has built 146 settlements, according to Peace Now, which includes more than 500,000 Jewish settlers. The number of settlers in the West Bank has grown by more than 15% in the past five years, according to a pro-settler group.

Israel also annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in the settlements built in East Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital neighborhoods. The Palestinian population of the city faces systematic discrimination. This makes it difficult for them to build new homes or expand existing ones.

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, home to the city's most sensitive holy sites, is not internationally recognized.

This is not the first time the court has been asked to issue an advisory opinion on Israeli policies or declare the occupation illegal.

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In 2004, the court said that the separation wall built by Israel across East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank was “contrary to international law.” It also called on Israel to stop construction work immediately. Israel ignored the ruling.

In the 1971 case, which the Palestinian legal team will likely benefit from, the court issued a fatwa ruling that South Africa's occupation of Namibia was illegal and said that South Africa should immediately withdraw from the country.

Also late last month, the court ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent death, destruction and anything else Acts of genocide In its campaign against Gaza. South Africa filed the case, accusing Israel of committing genocide, a charge that Israel denied.

South African representatives are scheduled to speak on Tuesday. The country's ruling party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the West Bank to the apartheid regime of white minority rule in South Africa, which restricted most blacks to their “homelands” before ending in 1994.


Frankl reported from Jerusalem.


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