Genocide allegations against Israel 'unfounded', says US after ICJ ruling

The International Court of Justice has issued its first decisions in South Africa's case against Israel over its actions in Gaza

A protester outside the International Court of Justice during the court ruling in The Hague on Friday. Bloomberg
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The US on Friday said the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice was unfounded, after the court delivered a partial victory to South Africa in its preliminary measures ruling.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden's administration has not seen any indication that Israel is trying to exterminate Palestinians in Gaza.

"There's no indication that we've seen that validates a claim of genocidal intent or action by the Israeli defence forces," Mr Kirby told journalists.

"That does not mean that we excuse any single innocent life lost - the right number of civilian casualties is zero.”

The UN's highest court on Friday ruled that South Africa's claims that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians are “plausible".

It also ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide and allow aid into the Palestinian enclave.

A State Department official told The National that Washington “recognises that the International Court of Justice plays a vital role in the peaceful settlement of disputes” but said the US maintains its position that “allegations of genocide are unfounded”.

The National reports from The Hague after the ICJ order in Gaza genocide case - video

The National reports from The Hague after the ICJ order in Gaza genocide case

The National reports from The Hague after the ICJ order in Gaza genocide case

“We have consistently made clear that Israel must take all take all possible steps to minimise civilian harm, increase the flow of humanitarian assistance and address dehumanising rhetoric,” the official added.

As its top ally and financial backer, Washington has played a critical role in Israel's ability to conduct its military campaign in Gaza.

The Biden administration has asserted that it has made no legal assessment about Israel’s conduct in Gaza or whether US weapons may have been misused.

The Pentagon did not immediately comment on the ICJ ruling.

Mr Biden has twice circumvented Congress to ramp up military sales to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

The State Department official argued on Friday that part of the ICJ's ruling was “consistent” with Washington's position “that Israel has the right to take action to ensure the terrorist attacks of October 7 cannot be repeated”.

ICJ rules not to throw out genocide case against Israel - in pictures

A former ICJ legal fellow and expert on the genocide case told The National ahead of the Friday ruling that for Israel's allies “the parameters of the court orders will be really important to [third-party states] in deciding how you continue forward” in providing aid.

Meanwhile, the senior foreign affairs representative the House of Representatives criticised the ICJ ruling.

“I condemn the ICJ’s determination that South Africa’s claims against Israel under the Genocide Convention are ‘plausible’,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Mike McCaul said in a statement.

“South Africa’s claims are meritless, and the US must continue to provide unwavering support to Israel to defend itself against the threat posed by Hamas.”

Washington has largely dismissed the merits of the ICJ case, despite historically welcoming its findings, including in cases pertaining to Myanmar, Ukraine and Syria.

Earlier this week, 210 members of Congress from both sides of the political divide sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken denouncing the case over claims of South Africa's “deeply hostile stance towards Israel”.

Updated: January 27, 2024, 4:53 PM