ICJ should consider damaged houses in Gaza as proof of genocide: UN envoy

South Africa is scheduled to present its oral arguments on Thursday, with Israel set to do the same the following day.

Tel Aviv: Balakirshnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said on Wednesday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) should consider the houses that have been destroyed or damaged in Gaza “as evidence of genocide” when it hears a case filed by South Africa against Israel.

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In a post on X, the special envoy said: “About 56 per cent of houses in Gaza are destroyed or damaged. Northern Gaza is most heavily affected with upto 82 per cent destroyed or damaged. ICJ should consider this as evidence of genocide when coupled with public statements documented before it by South Africa.”

In his post, he also attached a report by the Decentralised Damage Mapping Group, which showed that 45.3 per cent (130,200) to 55.9 per cent (160,800) of buildings in the Gaza Strip were likely damaged or destroyed as of January 5.

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The report also said that between 71.1 to 82.7 per cent of buildings in the area around Gaza City were “likely damaged or destroyed”.

The hearings at the ICJ scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday pertain to a case filed by South Africa on December 29, 2023 accusing Israel of committing “genocidal” acts” in Gaza amid the raging war with Hamas.

Following its 84-page application to The Hague-based ICJ — which is the UN’s principal judicial organ — South Africa’s presidency said in a statement that the country was obliged “to prevent genocide from occurring”.

South Africa is scheduled to present its oral arguments on Thursday, with Israel set to do the same the following day.

Immediately after South Africa submitted its application, spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry Lior Haiat had said that the nation’s claim “constitutes despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the Court”.

While confirming that the Israeli government will attend the hearings,National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told local media last week that the Jewish nation has “signed the convention against genocide for decades, and we will certainly not boycott the proceeding, but stand up and repel the absurd blood plot against us.”

The US has also denounced the case, saying it was meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Israel has named retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Aharon Barak, as the country’s appointee to the 15-judge ICJ panel that will hear the case.

South Africa has been highly critical of Israel’s ongoing military operation in Gaza. In November 2023, it recalled all of its diplomats from Israel.

Israel, in turn, recalled its Ambassador from Pretoria.

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