The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ highest legal body, is slated to rule on Friday whether it will issue interim measures against Israel on charges of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
Representatives from South Africa, which brought forth the case against Israel earlier this month, are requesting that the ICJ order a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The ICJ ruling this week is expected to touch on emergency measures against Israel, but likely will not rule on the overall question of genocide. If the case goes forward, it could take years, according to the AP.
Genocide is the destruction of a group of people with intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group—in whole or in part. Genocide can also include instances where a party forces on a group conditions of life that are calculated to bring about the destruction of the group, according to the Genocide Convention.
Judicial bodies, including the ICJ, have previously determined events to be genocides, including in the case of the killings of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995.
Israel has killed 25,700 Palestinians since launching war in Gaza after Hamas attacked Israel in October, according to figures released Wednesday from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The ICJ development comes as Israel begins a new phase of war, in which it has said it intends to be more targeted with its operations on “terror hotspots” in Gaza. Despite claims that it only intends to go after Hamas, the Israeli military has failed to limit civilian casualties, in some cases attacking zones it had previously marked as safe for civilians.
Israel has also imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on Gaza since 2007.
The Biden Administration has gone to great lengths to acknowledge that Israel could do a better job of not killing innocent civilians, while also claiming that Israel’s war in Gaza does not constitute a genocide.
The accusation is “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever,” John Kirby, White House National Security Council coordinator has previously said.
“The accusation that Israel is committing genocide—we believe that accusation is unfounded,” Vedant Patel, deputy State Department spokesperson, told reporters early this week.
“Israel has a moral and strategic imperative to take additional steps to ensure that impacts on civilians are minimized,” Patel added. “We have been very clear that more steps need to be taken, and that the toll on Palestinian civilians and the lives that have already been lost are far too many.”