Palestinian mourners react over the bodies of members of the al-Orjani family, after they were killed during Israeli bombardment, on January 11, 2024 at al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip/ AFP / Lehtikuva


Today marks the beginning of a significant session at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where South Africa accuses Israel of breaching the obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Amnesty International highlights this as a vital step towards protecting Palestinian civilians and ending the humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Gaza Strip.

The lawsuit filed by South Africa in December argues that Israel's actions and omissions in Gaza, initiated following attacks by Hamas and other armed groups in October, constitute genocide. South Africa is urging the court to issue an interim order to protect Palestinians in Gaza, requiring Israel to immediately cease military operations that could lead to genocide, as well as end collective punishment and forced displacements. The first hearings are scheduled for today, January 11, and tomorrow, January 12.

"The investigation of Israel's actions by the International Court is crucial for the protection of Palestinians. It is also significant for restoring the credibility of international law and ensuring that victims receive justice and compensation," states Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.

"An urgent interim order is a vital measure to prevent further deaths, destruction, and suffering of civilians while awaiting the final verdict of the International Court. It also serves as a warning to other states against participating in serious human rights violations and crimes against Palestinians."

While Amnesty International has not defined the events in Gaza as genocide, the warning signs are alarming, considering the scale of death and destruction: Over 23,000 Palestinians killed in just over three months and 10,000 people missing under the rubble, presumed dead. Additionally, the inhumane and racist rhetoric by some Israeli ministers and military leaders towards Palestinians has significantly increased. Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza has severely restricted or cut off civilians' access to water, food, medical aid, and fuel, causing immense human suffering and endangering survival in Gaza.

Much of northern Gaza has been destroyed, with at least 85% of Gaza's population forced to leave their homes. Many Palestinians and human rights experts view this as part of Israel's strategy to make Gaza uninhabitable, including statements by some Israeli officials advocating for the illegal expulsion or forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.

"The end to human suffering, destruction, and devastation is not in sight. Gaza is transforming before our eyes from the world's largest open-air prison to a massive graveyard. As the United States continues to use its veto power to prevent the UN Security Council from demanding a ceasefire, ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity are occurring, with a real risk of genocide."

Amnesty International repeatedly calls for an investigation into violations of international law by all parties, an immediate permanent ceasefire, the release of civilian detainees held by armed groups in Gaza, the release of Palestinians detained by Israel, and an end to Israel's illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza.

Amnesty also condemns the war crimes committed by Hamas and other armed groups on October 7, 2023, such as taking hostages and deliberately killing civilians, and the continued indiscriminate rocket attacks.