‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 98: Israel Claims ‘Self Defense’ at ICJ, as U.S. and U.K. Launch Air Strikes on Yemen

by Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau, published on Mondoweiss, January 11, 2024

Casualties:

  • 23,708 killed* and at least 60,005 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 385+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 520 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 2,193 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on January 12. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 30,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

**This figure is according to a release by the Israeli military

Key Developments

  • A day after the South African legal team laid out its case against Israel to the International Court of Justice, Israel took to the stand to reject accusations of genocide despite the evidence laid out on Thursday.
  • If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,” one of Israel’s representatives in the court said, arguing that South Africa had presented a “profoundly distorted” picture of the situation in Gaza.
  • Israeli officials continue to smear South Africa as “ .”
  • Meanwhile, United Nations human rights experts welcomed the start of the ICJ hearings, as did Palestinian political representatives.
  • The U.S. and the U.K. meanwhile carry out airstrikes on Ansar Allah targets across Yemen overnight, in retaliation for the Yemeni rebel group’s attacks on maritime trade in the Red Sea. Ansar Allah say they will continue to apply pressure on Israel and its allies.
  • Israeli bombs continue to bomb Gaza, killing 151 Palestinians in the span of 24 hours, as Oxfam International says the daily death rate in Gaza exceeds “all other major conflicts in the 21st century.”
  • Save the Children meanwhile notes that 1 percent of Gaza’s children have been killed in nearly 100 days.
  • Al-Haq and other Palestinian rights groups call for an investigation into Israel’s targeting of journalists in Gaza as a crime against humanity.
  • In the West Bank, Israeli forces kill at least one Palestinian, as army raids cause intensive damage to Tulkarem-area refugee camp.
  • Israeli poll shows the ruling Likud party’s popularity at record low, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval ratings stand at 29 percent.
  • An Israeli air strike on a civil defense center in southern Lebanon kills two medics.

ICJ hearings: Israel takes to the stand

Friday marked the second day of hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the genocide case against Israel. After the South African team laid out its arguments on Thursday as to why Israel’s relentless campaign of violence in the Gaza Strip since October 7 constitutes a deliberate and genocidal attack on Palestinians as a whole, Israel took to the stand on Friday to defend its record, hoping to convince the court’s 15 judges to drop the case altogether.

The Israeli defense, as laid out in opening remarks by Israeli foreign ministry legal adviser Tal Becker, did not bring many surprises for those who have been following the Israeli government’s statements since October 7.

Opening his statement by invoking the Holocaust, Becker said that South Africa was presenting  ,“hinge[ing] on a deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities.”

The Israeli defense team hinged most of its argumentation on the October 7 attack, arguing that Tel Aviv was acting in self-defense, and that it was Hamas, in fact, that was guilty of the crimes Israel was now standing trial for.

If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,” Becker said.

Israel’s lawyers repeatedly maintained that it was doing its utmost to minimize harm to civilians and comply with international law– claims that have been repeatedly debunked – and that Hamas was responsible for the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza because it was using them as “human shields.”

British legal expert Malcolm Shaw meanwhile downplayed South Africa’s argument that numerous Israeli officials’ statements calling for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza was “misleading,” and that there wasn’t sufficient proof of “special intent” to commit genocidal crimes.

Addressing the actions of Israeli soldiers in Gaza, many of them filmed and shared by soldiers themselves, Shaw said: “Were it the case, which we deny, that Israeli forces have transgressed some rules of conflict, then the matter would be tackled at the appropriate time, by Israel’s independent and robust legal system.”

Crimes committed against Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces are rarely prosecuted, creating a “culture of impunity” within Israel’s armed forces that has been documented and denounced for decades.

Israel’s oral arguments ended at midday on Friday, as the Israeli Foreign Ministry maintained that there was “no basis” to South Africa’s case. The ICJ judges are expected to reach a verdict in coming weeks regarding whether to conduct a full investigation into genocide, and/or issue intermediary injunctions for Israel to stop its assault on Gaza, as South Africa has requested.

“I called the legal advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to thank him and the members of the Israeli legal team for their impressive performance that undermined all the hypocritical arguments of South Africa, and revealed its true face as a loyal representative of a terrorist organization that inhumanely slaughtered babies, children, women and adults,” ministry spokesman Israel Katz said.

Israeli officials have been, in the words of the Times of Israel, seething following South Africa’s oral arguments on Thursday, accusing Pretoria of serving as “Hamas’ lawyer” and of peddling “baseless” claims.

Today, again, we saw an upside-down world, in which the State of Israel is accused of genocide at a time when it is fighting genocide,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday in response to South Africa.

Israel media outlets, however, had a more mitigated response to South Africa’s case than the government.

While the Jerusalem Post argued that South Africa’s arguments “miserably… fail laws of war,” the Times of Israel estimated that “South Africa paints grim picture of Gaza, but obfuscates foundations of genocide claim.” Centrist newspaper Haaretz, however, wondered whether South Africa had pre-emptively “wrecked Israel’s defense” by debunking certain Israeli arguments on Thursday before its representatives had a chance to make them. Ynet, meanwhile, worried that Israel was already losing in the court of public opinion.

“Merely the fact that the state is positioned in the defendant’s seat, regardless of the trial’s outcome, already reinforces the perception and narrative that the actions in the Gaza Strip are illegal and that the accusations against Israel are indeed credible,” a columnist wrote.

Supporters of human rights and of Palestine have meanwhile hailed South Africa for representing the case in The Hague.

We commend South Africa for bringing this case to the ICJ at a time when the rights of Palestinians in Gaza are being violated with impunity,” U.N. human rights experts wrote on Thursday. “We call on all States to cooperate with the Court as it interprets the Genocide Convention and to respect the role of the ICJ as an independent court of law.”

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh expressed his gratitude to South Africa on Thursday.

“The indictment against Israel was signed by South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa with the ink of Nelson Mandela’s legacy, Desmond Tutu, and Steve Biko. Colonialism, settlement, and the apartheid system that lasted from 1640 to 1994 in South Africa were defeated,” WAFA news agency quoted him as saying.

“Here we are facing genocide, destruction of homes, uprooting of trees, settler terrorism, a racist apartheid system, claims of racial superiority, forced displacement attempts, land annexation, and military occupation. Despite all this, we will triumph and achieve our right to self-determination.”

A number of Palestinian factions also commented favorably on the case, and called on the ICJ and international powers to abide by the Genocide Convention and act to stop Israel’s war crimes.

“The International Court of Justice has significant and ethical responsibilities in seriously following up on this invitation presented by South Africa, away from the policy of procrastination and stalling or succumbing to American and Western pressures. It is time for these institutions to abandon their negligence and complicity by taking effective decisions to stop the aggression, and to prosecute the leaders of the Zionist occupation as war criminals before the International Criminal Court, and all who joined them, supported them, and gave them the green light to continue the genocide war against the Palestinian people,”

the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in a statement on Thursday.

Gaza is still getting bombed in what Oxfam calls deadliest war of the 21st century

As the Israeli legal defense team was arguing in The Hague that it is Israelis, and not Palestinians, who are under the imminent threat of genocide, Israeli bombs continued to rain down on the Gaza Strip with deadly effect.

WAFA reported a number of deadly Israeli airstrikes in Rafah and Khan Younis, in the southernmost Gaza Strip where hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians have sought refuge. The official Palestinian Authority news agency also reported Israeli shelling in Deir al-Balah, and the Nusseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in central Gaza.

Palestinian armed groups reported fighting with Israeli ground forces in Khan Younis, Nuseirat, Maghazi, and Jabalia refugee camp – the latter reports seemingly belying Israeli claims that it has “flushed out” Palestinian fighters from northern Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israeli army claimed on Friday to have killed dozens of Hamas fighters in the span of 24 hours, including an alleged leader of the October 7 Al-Aqsa Flood operation, without naming him.

The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 151 Palestinians had been killed and another 248 wounded in the span of 24 hours, raising its total toll in Gaza since October 7 to 23,708 killed and 60,005 injured.

This hasn’t stopped Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from telling Israeli troops on Thursday: “There is no war that is more justified than the one we are fighting.”

With an average of 250 Palestinians killed each day in nearly 100 days, Oxfam International said the toll of the current onslaught of violence “massively exceeds” that of “any other major conflict of recent years.”

“It is unimaginable that the international community is watching the deadliest rate of conflict of the 21st century unfold, while continuously blocking calls for a ceasefire,” Oxfam Middle East Director Sally Abi Khalil said.

Save The Children meanwhile stated on Friday that more than 10,000 Palestinian children had been killed in Gaza since October 7, amounting to 1 percent of children in the small blockaded Palestinian territory.

The United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) meanwhile stressed on FridayIsrael’s recurring failures to uphold the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law: distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out attacks.”

UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, stated on Friday that at least 330 Palestinians had been killed while taking shelter in UNRWA facilities in Gaza.

OCHA, the U.N. agency for humanitarian affairs, has reported that it has only been able to deliver 21 percent of planned aid to northern Gaza so far this month, amid “excessive delays at Israeli checkpoints,” unpassable routes, and outright denial of entry by Israeli authorities. “These denials and severe access constraints paralyze the ability of humanitarian partners to respond meaningfully, consistently and at-scale,” the U.N. body said in its daily update.

Meanwhile, as Israel’s lawyers try to downplay Israeli calls for genocide at the ICJ, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, doubled down on his calls to “burn Gaza.”

I don’t regret anything I said,” Likud lawmaker Nissim Vaturi said of comments he had previously made. Speaking of northern Gaza, the Times of Israel quoted Vaturi as saying: “We can’t be gentle souls and say ‘Oh, there are innocents there.’ There’s 100,000 left? Who’s left? If there are innocents there we know about them. But those left there need to be wiped out, period.”

Meanwhile, talks between Israel and Hamas were reportedly underway to allow the delivery of medicines to Israeli hostages held in Gaza, the New York Times reported. A meeting between Hamas and unspecified “Palestinian factions” on Thursday – during which the participants reiterated their stance against a prisoner exchange deal “without a comprehensive halt to the aggression against our Palestinian people” – has been interpreted by some observers as a possible sign that indirect talks may resume with Tel Aviv.

U.S. and U.K. bomb Yemen, Israel bombs Lebanon

After months of attacks on tankers in the Red Sea by the Yemeni Ansar Allah rebels in solidarity with Palestinians, U.S. and U.K. forces carried out strikes across Yemen overnight Thursday.

American and British warplanes, ships and submarines reportedly struck the Yemeni capital Sanaa, as well as the cities of Taiz, Hodeidah, and other locations in the Hajjah governorate.

These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” U.S. President Joe Biden said.

The latest U.S. bombing of Yemen drew outrage from protesters in New York City, as well as a number of regional armed groups.

Ansar Allah, often referred to as “Houthis,” however, vowed to continue to apply pressure on Israel via the Red Sea.

The American and British stance to protect ships linked to Israel to allow the continuation of Israeli crimes without disturbance will not deter us,” Abdulmalik Badr El-Din Al-Houthi, a commander of Ansar Allah said.

Elsewhere in the region, an Israeli airstrike on a civil defense center in the southern Lebanese town of Hanin killed two paramedics on Thursday, as Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement continue to exchange fire along the Blue Line.

Israeli forces kill one in the West Bank, as Israeli disunity once again on display

As always, Israeli violence has continued unabated in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, even as the Israeli government faces setbacks internally.

Armed clashes were reported between Israeli forces and local Palestinian residents overnight in the towns of Jaba’ and Silat al-Harithiya in the Jenin governorate, and in Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem.

One Palestinian, identified as Majdy Fashafsha, 37, was killed by Israeli forces who surrounded his home in Jaba’. In Nur Shams, Israeli forces left the camp after inflicting significant damage to the refugee camp’s water, sewage, telecom, and electric infrastructure – echoing Israel’s deliberate destruction of similar key infrastructure in Gaza.

In the southern occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers razed broad swaths of land in Masafer Yatta, a sensitive area near Hebron that has long been under threat of illegal settlement expansion.

While Israel is trying to project the appearance of a united front abroad, internal discord continues to make the news in Israeli media.

Amid controversy over Transportation Minister Miri Regev allegedly busting out popcorn during a heated security cabinet meeting, a poll reportedly showed that Netanyahu’s Likud party would only win 16 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, an “unprecedented low,” while the prime minister received a 29 percent approval rating.

Meanwhile, Israeli police announced it had barred an anti-war protest scheduled for Saturday in Haifa, alleging “real concerns about a serious disruption to public order.”

“The police continue to operate in the service of [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir, refusing to approve demonstrations that are not compatible with government policies,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said. “We hope that the High Court of Justice will instruct the police, in this case too, to act according to the law, reminding the police that the right of expression is not a right given to only one side of the political map, and that this is a right which does not dissipate in times of war.”

*Featured Image: Palestinians injured in Israeli air strikes were transferred to Al-Aqsa Hospital on January 11, 2024 in Dair El-Balah, in central Gaza. More than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since October 7th, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Whilst 93 per cent of 2.3 million Gazans are “acutely food insecure,” according to the World Food Programme. (Photo: Naaman Omar/apaimages) 

Editor’s Note: Israel’s defense at the ICJ is unsurprisingly, rejection.  They are the victims.  The accusations against them are baseless.  Nobody discussed the issues with them before applying to the court (attempts to do so were blown off).  And it’t actually Hamas who committed all the atrocities they are accused of.   On the first day of al Aqsa Flood, over a thousand people died.  In the subsequent weeks of Israeli revenge, 30,000 have died. Hospitals, schools and highrise appartment buildings have been struck with 2,000 lb bunker busters.  You can learn more about the first day by reading an article on The Cradle by William Van Wagenen, an excellent Middle East Researcher.  Using information from the mainstream news in Israel, he found that more people were killed by high tech Israeli weapons that day than by the Palestinians,


 

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