Egypt escalates international pressure against Israel by joining genocide case in ICJ

As Gaza faces increasing violence, Egypt supports South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of genocide, signaling a significant shift in Middle Eastern diplomacy.

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Image Credit: New York Times

Egypt has announced its intention to join South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza. This significant legal move by Egypt comes amidst the intensifying Israeli military campaign in Gaza, which has seen the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing seized and extensive bombardment leading to mass displacement and casualties.

The lawsuit, initially lodged by South Africa in late December 2023, charges Israel with breaching its obligations under the Genocide Convention during its military actions in Gaza. The ICJ responded in January with a preliminary ruling that found plausible evidence of genocide and ordered Israel to take all necessary measures to prevent it.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed their decision to join the ICJ case against Israel on Sunday. The ministry cited “the worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip” as the primary motivator for its involvement. This decision marks a pivotal shift in regional dynamics, given Egypt’s historical peace treaty with Israel since 1979.

Egypt’s involvement in the case is expected to have profound diplomatic implications. It underscores a growing frustration among Middle Eastern nations with Israel’s actions in Gaza, potentially influencing other countries’ stances within the United Nations and international forums.

At the core of the ICJ case is the application of the Genocide Convention. The plaintiffs argue that Israel’s actions in Gaza, characterized by the targeting of civilian infrastructure and restrictions on humanitarian aid, constitute acts of genocide. Israel, however, maintains that its military operations are defensive measures against Hamas, which it labels a terrorist organization.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated rapidly. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), approximately 300,000 people have fled Rafah in the past week alone. The death toll, as reported by the Gaza Health Ministry, has surpassed 35,000. The ICJ’s involvement highlights the urgent need for adherence to international humanitarian law, which aims to protect civilian populations during conflicts.

The response from the Israeli government has been to challenge the jurisdiction and authority of the ICJ, citing that neither Israel nor the United States are signatories to the Rome Statute, which underpins the court. Nonetheless, the court claims jurisdiction over the territories based on Palestine’s membership, which was granted in 2015.

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated, “The submission comes in light of the worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

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