A picture taken from a position in southern Israel on the border with the Gaza Strip on February 15, 2024, shows Israeli soldiers holding up a national flag as they move along the border, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

The International Court of Justice commenced hearings today, February 19th, to deliberate on the legal ramifications of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Amnesty International has called for an immediate cessation of Israel's "brutal occupation" of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, which has persisted since 1967.

The process, initiated by a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2022, seeks an advisory opinion from the court on the legality of Israel's policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories and their effects on other states and the UN itself.

Amnesty International's Secretary-General, Agnès Callamard, highlighted the dire situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, where there is an imminent risk of genocide. The organization criticized the international community for allowing Israel's alleged international crimes in Palestinian territories to go unpunished for too long, underlining the catastrophic consequences in Gaza.

The occupation, according to Amnesty, flagrantly violates international law, which stipulates that occupation should be temporary and administered in the interest of the occupied population. Israel's actions, including the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, demonstrate an intent for permanent occupation, benefiting the occupying state and its citizens against the principles of international law.

Callamard further stated that the occupation of Palestinian territories is one of the longest and deadliest military occupations in history, involving widespread and systematic human rights violations and cementing an apartheid system against Palestinians.

Ending the occupation would mean restoring Palestinian rights, lifting the harsh blockade on Gaza, and dismantling Israeli settlements, allowing Palestinians to move freely within their territories. This would reduce human suffering and end widespread human rights abuses.

The hearings, attended by over 50 states along with the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, will take place from February 19th to 26th in The Hague, with the court's advisory opinion expected later this year.

Palestinians living under occupation face numerous human rights abuses enabled by Israel's oppressive system. Even before the recent escalation of conflict, Gazans have suffered from military attacks and a years-long blockade, with Amnesty International documenting repeated illegal attacks by Israel, some of which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the West Bank, Palestinians encounter excessive force, illegal executions, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, land confiscation, and restrictions on basic rights and freedoms.

"Living under Israel's harsh occupation for 56 years, Palestinians have been subjected to systematic discrimination. Israeli authorities control every aspect of their lives, infringing on their rights to movement, livelihood, education, and a dignified quality of life," Callamard remarked, urging all states to reassess their relations with Israel to ensure they do not support the maintenance of the occupation or the apartheid system.