Pain and anguish: What the world said at the ICJ Palestinian hearings

A week of testimony heard that Israel is committing a crime of aggression by remaining in the occupied territories

Ali Al Dafiri, Kuwait's ambassador to the Netherlands, attends court proceedings in The Hague. Photo: Anadolu
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The conflict between Israel and Palestine is an “illegal occupation conflict”, a senior Kuwaiti official told the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday.

Ali Al Dafiri, the Gulf country's ambassador to the Netherlands, said the conflict pitted an occupying power, Israel, “equipped with all military means”, against “an occupied nation without defensive capabilities facing daily expulsion”.

Mr Al Dafiri, who paused several times to wipe his eyes during his speech, quoted the late Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah as he said: “Why do victims continue to be portrayed as killers by Israeli norms? Why does Israel always escape punishment?”

The legality of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, has been in the spotlight throughout the week, with the UAE's ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, telling the world's top court on Wednesday that it was “illegal and must end”.

“The horrors that have unfolded over the last few months, the October 7 attack on Israel, the destruction of the Gaza Strip and the oppression in the [occupied] West Bank underscore the desperate need for realising the two-state solution,” Ms Nusseibeh said.

Senior Palestinian officials on Monday told the court that their people were burdened by Israeli “colonialism and apartheid” at the start of a week of keenly awaited hearings.

“It is so painful to be Palestinian today,” said Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour. “How could we be subjected to such loss and injustice, such lawlessness and humiliation time and time again?”

The heavy civilian death toll of the Israel-Gaza war is a consequence of “twisted logic” and decades of illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, a Saudi diplomat told the court on Tuesday.

Ziad Al Atiyah, the kingdom's ambassador to the Netherlands, spoke as the hearings entered their second day on Tuesday in The Hague.

Jordan and Iraq harshly condemned Israel's actions, including the recent war in Gaza.

Haider Al Barrak, head of the legal department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Iraq, asked the court “to stop the systematic killing machine against the Palestinian people”.

“The occupying Israeli entity must be held accountable for its actions,” he said, before calling on the court to “take all measures and decisions that safeguard the lives of Palestinian men, women, children and elders”.

Jordan's Foreign Affairs Minister Ayman Safadi said Israel was killing Palestinians “in the hundreds every day” because it was “not being held accountable for its war crimes and violations of international law”.

Senior Chinese official Ma Xinmin said China believes Palestinians have the right to engage in armed struggle because they live under an illegal Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, the US argued that Israel's security needs would be at risk should the International Court of Justice request its military to unilaterally withdraw from Palestinian territories.

A senior US official said the judges must give consideration to Israel's “very real” security needs.

Kuwait's Assistant Foreign Minister for legal affairs Tahani Al Nasser said Israel had failed to respect Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

“The occupying power, by confiscating and annexing parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, violates the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force that was underscored by 38 participants in the written proceedings” at the court, said Ms Al Nasser.

A record 52 countries have asked to participate in the hearings that will result in clarifications requested by the UN Security Council in 2022. Hearings are set to continue until Monday.

Israel has declined to participate in the oral statements but sent a written statement that has not been made public.

Speaking after Kuwait, Lebanon also said that Israel's occupation was illegal and claimed that Israel was guilty of the crime of aggression against Palestinians.

“Since 1967, Israel has been committing a crime of aggression – illegally occupying territories before annexing them,” said Abdel Sattar Issa, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UK.

“Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, its blockade of the Gaza strip, all of this are an act of aggression,” said Mr Issa.

Israel is in breach of prohibitions on the use of force and has curtailed Palestinians' right to self-determination, he said.

Should the court find that Israel’s occupation is illegal, it will have to “restitute the lands, orchards, olive groves seized from any physical or legal person”, said Mr Issa.

There have been fears that the Gaza war may spread to Lebanon, which hosts Iran-backed Hezbollah, which last fought Israel in an outright war in 2006.

Israel said on Monday that it had struck a weapons depot near the southern Lebanese city of Saida.

Updated: February 23, 2024, 11:45 AM