Spain seeks to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel at UN court

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognized a Palestinian state on May 28 in a coordinated effort by the three Western European nations.
A Palestinian woman mourns a child killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a morgue in Khan Younis.
A Palestinian woman mourns a child killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a morgue in Khan Younis. (Photo | AP)

BARCELONA: Spain became on Thursday the first European country to ask a United Nations court for permission to join South Africa's case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

South Africa filed its case with the International Court of Justice late last year. It alleged that Israel was breaching the genocide convention in its military assault that has laid waste to large swaths of Gaza.

The court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah but stopped short of ordering a cease-fire for the enclave. Israel has not complied and shows no sign of doing so.

"We take the decision because of the ongoing military operation in Gaza," Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in Madrid. "We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East, and for that to happen we must all support the court."

Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Libya and the Palestinians are waiting for the court in The Hague, Netherlands, to grant approval to their requests to join the case.

Israel's brutal war in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, including more than 15,000 children. According to the submissions made by South Africa, there are clear indications of Israel committing a genocide in Gaza.

A Palestinian woman mourns a child killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a morgue in Khan Younis.
Israelis march through Palestinian area of Jerusalem, chanting 'Death to Arabs'

Once admitted to the case, Spain would be able to make written submissions and speak at public hearings.

Spain's request is the latest move by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to support peacemaking efforts in Gaza.

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognized a Palestinian state on May 28 in a coordinated effort by the three Western European nations. Slovenia, a European Union member along with Spain and Ireland, followed suit and recognized the Palestinian state this week.

Over 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the U.N. — but none of the major Western powers, including the United States, has done so.

While Sánchez has condemned the attacks by Hamas and joined demands for the return of the remaining Israeli hostages, he has not shied away from the diplomatic backlash from Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz claimed that by recognizing a Palestinian state, Sánchez's government was "being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes."

Sánchez's backing of the Palestinians is generally supported in Spain, where some university students have followed their American counterparts in protesting on campuses. Spaniards will vote in elections for the European Parliament elections on Sunday.

Preliminary hearings have already been held in the genocide case, but the court is expected to take years to reach a final decision.

Albares said the decision by his government had the immediate objective of adding pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to follow the court's interim measures to stop bloodshed in Rafah.

"I insist once again that these interim measures must be complied with," Albares said. "Whether this is genocide or not, that is for the court to decide, and Spain of course will support its decision."

Israel sent troops into the southern city of Rafah in early May in what it said was a limited incursion, but those forces are now operating in central parts of the city. Last week, Israeli strikes hit refugee camps of displaced Palestinians in Rafah which killed more than 45 people, mostly women and children.

More than 1 million people have fled Rafah since the start of the operation, scattering across southern and central Gaza into new tent camps or crowding into schools and homes.

A Palestinian woman mourns a child killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at a morgue in Khan Younis.
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