Egypt joins South Africa in Israel genocide case at the ICJ

Egypt joins South Africa in Israel genocide case at the ICJ
Cairo's decision will be seen as a major blow for Israel and adds to growing tensions as Israel's war on Gaza moves to the southern border with Egypt.
3 min read
12 May, 2024
The ICJ opened a case against Israel bought by South Africa in late December 2023 [file/GETTY]

Egypt announced on Sunday its formal support for South Africa's lawsuit against Israel for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in a major blow for Israel from one of its few Arab allies.

In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt said its decision to intervene in the case comes in the wake of the increasing severity and scope of Israeli attacks on Palestinians in its war in Gaza, which has entered its eighth month.

It said that Israel’s actions in Gaza, where over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, are "in flagrant violation of the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, and the Fourth Convention of 1949 for the protection of civilian persons in time of war".

The statement named "systemic practices" against Palestinians, including direct attacks on civilians, destruction of infrastructure and forced evacuations out of their land.

"The Arab Republic of Egypt calls on Israel to comply with its obligations as the occupying power, and to implement the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice, which requires ensuring the access of humanitarian and relief aid in a manner that meets the needs of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

Despite international opposition, Israel pressed ahead with its long-threatened invasion of the southern Rafah governorate which borders Egypt this week and rapidly seized control of the border crossing and sealed it shut.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to evacuate under Israeli military directives to so-called "expanded humanitarian zones". Locals have reported scenes of chaos and fear as hungry and exhausted families were forced to flee again.

Humanitarian agencies and the UN have said that the invasion risks huge civilian casualties and have sounded the alarm over the lack of basic living conditions, including running water, and access to health care.

On Friday South Africa asked the ICJ to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as part of additional emergency measures in response to the ongoing case over the Gaza war.

In a sign of mounting tensions, Cairo said on Saturday that it would not cooperate with Israeli authorities over the entry of aid through Rafah due to Israel's "unacceptable escalation".

For months, Egyptian officials had warned that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would risk peace ties between the two countries, with Cairo nervous that a major assault could put pressure on the delicate Northern Sinai border area.

The move to support South Africa’s case at The Hague, in which Israel has been accused of breaching its obligations under the UN Genocide Convention, will be seen as a major diplomatic blow for Tel Aviv on the world stage.

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For decades, Cairo has served as an important mediator in the region as the first Arab nation to formalise ties with Israel through a peace treaty in 1979 which marked a major milestone.

In the current war, Cairo has regularly hosted ceasefire negotiations between Palestinian officials and US and Egyptian intelligence officers.

Following the announcement, Hamas said on Sunday that it "appreciated" Egypt's decision to join South Africa in the ICJ case and its condemnation of Israel’s "violations and crimes" against the people of Gaza.

Turkey, Ireland, Libya, and Colombia have also announced formal support for South Africa's case against Israel.