Egypt joining South Africa in genocide case against Israel

Cairo says move is in response to Israel's 'sharp escalation' in attacks against Palestinian civilians

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.  EPA
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Egypt said on Sunday it was joining the case filed by South Africa in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, the strongest action taken by Cairo against Israel since the Gaza war began in October.

A Foreign Ministry statement said Egypt's decision to “officially intervene in support of South Africa's case” in the ICJ was motivated by the “sharp escalation and the scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip”.

Cairo has been sharply critical of Israel's conduct in the Gaza war since its start more than seven months ago, but Sunday's move - though largely symbolic - is by far the strongest rebuke it has handed its eastern neighbour.

Egypt and Israel are bound by a 1979 peace treaty. The most populous Arab nation, Egypt has strongly condemned last week's capture by Israel of the Palestinian side of its border crossing with Gaza, describing the move as a threat to its national security.

Sunday's statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry cited Israel's “methodical practices against Palestinians that include directly targeting Palestinian civilians, destroying the strip's infrastructure and forcing Palestinians into displacement or leaving their lands”.

It said Israel's actions in Gaza made the coastal enclave of 2.3 million residents not suitable for habitation and constituted a blatant violation of international law and the 1949 Geneva convention for the protection of civilians during times of war.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, ordered Israel in January to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians after South Africa accused it of state-led genocide in Gaza.

Israel and its western allies described the allegation as baseless.

A final ruling in South Africa's ICJ case in The Hague could take years.

“The Arab Republic of Egypt calls on Israel to shoulder its responsibilities as the occupation force and carry out the temporary measures issued by the International Court of Justice which guarantee the passage of humanitarian and relief supplies in a manner that meets the needs of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip,” said the Egyptian statement.

The Egyptian action came just days after the latest round of Gaza ceasefire negotiations ended in Cairo without a breakthrough. It was the latest failure by Egypt, the US and Qatar to broker a pause in the war and enact a prisoner and hostage swap between Israel and Hamas.

The three mediators have been unable to persuade the two sides to silence their guns since a week-long pause in late November collapsed.

On Friday, the US State Department said in a report submitted to Congress that it is “reasonable” to believe that Israel has used US-made weapons in Gaza in a manner that is inconsistent with international humanitarian law, but that “provision of defence articles” can continue.

The Gaza war was triggered by an attack on south Israel by Hamas in October that left 1,200 dead, mostly civilians. The Gaza-based group also captured 240 hostages.

The attack drew a devastating response from Israel, whose military onslaught in Gaza has since killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, wounded twice as many and displaced the vast majority of the strip's residents.

Updated: May 12, 2024, 8:41 PM