Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’

Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’
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Ziad Al-Atiyah, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the Netherlands, has strongly criticized Israel for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. (Screen grab)
Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’
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South Africa's Ambassador to The Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela urged for an end to Israel's violations against Palestinian territories. (Screen grab)
Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’
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A protester holds up the Palestinian flag during a rally outside the court house prior to the verdict on the export of parts for F-35 fighter jet, in The Hague on February 12, 2024. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 February 2024

Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’

Day 2 at ICJ hearing: Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible’
  • South Africa opened second day of hearings
  • Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Netherlands, Bangladesh and Belgium also presented preliminary arguments

THE HAGUE: South Africa on Tuesday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.

Representatives of South Africa opened the second day of hearings at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, in the Hague.

The hearing follows a request by the UN General Assembly for an advisory, or non-binding, opinion on the occupation in 2022. More than 50 states will present arguments until Feb. 26.

Alongside the South African legal team, representatives from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium also presented preliminary arguments.

This is said to be the largest case at the ICJ and at least three international organizations are also slated to address the judges at the UN's top court until next week. A nonbinding legal opinion is anticipated following months of judge deliberations. 

On Monday, Palestinian representatives articulated their stance on the legal repercussions of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. They asserted that the occupation is illegal and must cease immediately, unconditionally, and entirely.

Israel has abstained from attending the hearings but submitted a five-page written statement expressing concerns that an advisory opinion would hinder attempts to resolve the conflict, citing prejudiced questions posed by the UN General Assembly.

Read a summary of Tuesday's arguments below:

  • 2:50 p.m. (GMT) Bolivia condemns Israel's discriminatory actions 

Roberto Calzadilla Sarmiento, Bolivia's ambassador in the Netherlands, condemned Israel's discriminatory actions in the Palestinian Territories.

Sarmiento unequivocally denounced Israel's ongoing occupation of the Palestinian Territories as a clear violation of international law, the envoy said. 

Sarmiento accused Israel of implementing discriminatory measures with colonial intent, aimed at dispossessing the Palestinian population and altering the demographic landscape of Jerusalem. These actions, Sarmiento argues, deny Palestinians their rights and violate international norms.

Sarmiento emphasized that Israel's actions carry consequences and obligations for all states and the United Nations. The perpetuation of Palestinian disenfranchisement, Sarmiento asserted, is a breach of Israel's international obligations.

Sarmiento condemned Israel's continuous denial of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination over a span of 75 years. Such deprivation, Sarmiento argued, represents a clear violation of international norms and human rights principles.

Sarmiento highlighted Israel's deliberate efforts to annex Palestinian territory, including the transfer of Israeli settlers and the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These actions, Sarmiento contends, aim to solidify Israeli control through colonization, confinement, and the fragmentation of Palestinian territories.

  • 2:40 p.m. (GMT) Belize's legal expert asserts Gaza Strip remains occupied despite withdrawal

Advocate Ben Juratowitch has reinforced the argument that the Gaza Strip remains under Israeli occupation despite the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers in 2005.

According to Juratowitch, Israel's occupation of Gaza predates and persists beyond specific dates like October 7. He asserts that Gaza has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, and this status remains unchanged.

Occupation, Juratowitch explains, does not solely hinge on the physical presence of troops. Even in the absence of Israeli troops, the capacity for Israel to exert control over Gaza and deploy forces if necessary constitutes continued occupation.

Contrary to claims of withdrawal, Israel's recent actions in Gaza represent a continuation and intensification of its long-term control, including violence and incursions into the territory.

Juratowitch argues that Israel's occupation of Gaza is neither necessary nor proportional. Given the peace treaties signed with Jordan and Egypt, maintaining a military presence in Gaza or the West Bank is deemed unnecessary.

He also stated that Israel's use of force in Gaza, particularly in response to the October 7 attack, is deemed disproportionate and unjustified.

  • 2:30 p.m. (GMT) Belize's stance on apartheid and its impact on self-determination

Professor Philippa Webb of King’s College London critiqued Israel's apartheid policies and their impact on Palestinian self-determination.

Highlighting apartheid as a grave violation of human rights, Professor Webb emphasized its correlation with Israel's infringement upon Palestinian self-determination. She argued that the systematic racial oppression and discrimination inherent in apartheid regimes prevent the realization of genuine self-determination for affected populations.

Examining the tangible effects of Israel's discriminatory practices, Professor Webb pointed to the separation wall, permit restrictions, checkpoints, and segregated roads in the West Bank. These measures, she argued, fragment Palestinian communities and intensify their isolation from Israeli Jews.

Turning to Gaza, Professor Webb condemned the prolonged siege and blockade, which have confined millions of Palestinians to ever-shrinking territories, resulting in widespread poverty and desperation. She described Gaza as a symbol of extreme oppression and suffering, exacerbated by Israel's policies.

Professor Webb highlighted Israel's extensive detention of Palestinians since 1967, including tens of thousands of children, as further evidence of its human rights abuses.

  • 2:15 p.m. (GMT) Belize representative urges end to Israeli impunity

Belize representative Assad Shoman emphasized at the ICJ that "Palestine must be free," underscoring the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and independence, which has been consistently denied.

Shoman condemned Israel's manipulation of negotiations to obstruct Palestinian rights, calling for an end to Israel's impunity for violating international law.

He highlighted the urgency of addressing these violations to prevent further humanitarian crises.

  • 12:35 p.m. (GMT) Belgium's legal expert condemns Israel's settlement policy as violation of international law

Belgium's legal expert, Vaios Koutroulis, has denounced Israel's settlement policy, highlighting its aim to create permanent demographic changes in Palestinian territories.

Koutroulis emphasized that Israel's settlement policy violates fundamental principles of international law, including the prohibition of acquiring territory by force and the right to self-determination.

He pointed out that the establishment of settlements leads to the creation of two separate systems, one for settlers and another for Palestinians, which exacerbates inequalities.

Belgium condemned violence against Palestinians and urged Israel to end settlement activities, restore expropriated property, and bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

Koutroulis called on third states to refrain from recognizing the legality of the situation, withhold support, and collaborate to end violations of international law.

  • 12:10 p.m. (GMT) Bangladesh argues Israel cannot use self-defense as a justification for its actions

Riaz Hamidullah, representing Bangladesh, emphasized that the principle of self-defense cannot justify prolonged occupation, addressing the ongoing situation in the Palestinian territories.

Israel's occupation contradicts three fundamental pillars of international law: the right to self-determination, the prohibition of acquiring territory by force, and the prohibition of racial discrimination and apartheid.

In adherence to international law, any occupation must be temporary, and territorial acquisition is illegal. Israel's extended occupation, coupled with territorial expansion, constitutes a violation of international law.

Hamidullah underscored that the right to self-defense cannot excuse breaches of international law, including the right to self-determination. Israel's denial of Palestinian self-determination has led to widespread condemnation and hinders prospects for peace.

He called for Israel to cease all actions hindering Palestinian self-determination, including discriminatory legislation and military presence, and to provide reparations for damages incurred.

Hamidullah urged all states to ensure the cessation of any legal barriers to self-determination and to refrain from recognizing or supporting Israel's illegal acts. Cooperation among states is essential to compel Israel to comply with international law.

He also urged the UN Security Council to consider further action to end the occupation and stressed the urgency of dismantling the apartheid system in place.

  • 11:15 a.m. (GMT) Netherlands affirms Palestinians right to self-determination 

René Lefeber, representing the Netherlands at the ICJ, affirmed the court's jurisdiction and emphasized the universal right to self-determination as outlined in the UN Charter.

He highlighted how prolonged occupation undermines this principle and noted the conditions for the legitimacy of occupying foreign territory.

Lefeber concluded that an occupation failing to meet these criteria risks violating the prohibition against the use of force.

Occupying powers are prohibited from transferring populations in the territories they occupy, constituting a war crime under the Rome Statute, Lefeber said. 

Once an occupation begins, the occupying power must protect civilians, he added. 

Serious breaches of international norms should be addressed at the UN, and if necessary, states must cooperate to end unlawful situations, refraining from recognizing or supporting such breaches, Lefeber concluded for the Netherlands. 

  • 10:45 a.m. (GMT) Saudi Arabia condemns Israel's actions in Palestinian Territories as legally indefensible

Ziad Al-Atiyah, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the Netherlands, has strongly criticized Israel for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, stating that they are legally indefensible.

Al-Atiyah emphasized the importance of holding Israel accountable for ignoring international law, particularly regarding its treatment of civilians in Gaza and its continued impunity.

Saudi Arabia expressed deep concern over the killing of civilians and rejected Israel's argument of self-defense, stating that depriving Palestinians of basic means of survival is unjustifiable.

Al-Atiyah accused Israel of dehumanizing Palestinians and committing genocide against them, calling for the international community to take action.

Regarding the jurisdiction of the court, Al-Atiyah asserted that the arguments against its jurisdiction lack merit, urging the court to issue an opinion on the matter.

Israel's ongoing disregard for ceasefire calls and provisional measures, as well as its expansion of illegal settlements and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, were condemned by Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom highlighted Israel's violations of international obligations, including ignoring UN resolutions condemning its conduct and preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to self-defense.

Israel's intentions to maintain and expand illegal settlements, as evidenced by its 2018 Basic Law declaring Jerusalem as its capital, were also criticized for undermining Palestinian self-determination.

  • 10:15 a.m. (GMT) Algeria advocates against prolonged occupation of Palestinian Territories

Algeria's legal representative, Ahmed Laraba, took the floor at the ICJ to present his country's stance on the enduring occupation of Palestinian territories. In his address, Laraba highlighted the intricacies surrounding the concept of prolonged occupation, shedding light on its legal foundations and historical context.

Referencing Article 42 of The Hague Convention of 1907, Laraba underscored the undisputed basis of the notion of occupation, as acknowledged by the court in a previous opinion. He emphasized the temporary nature of the occupation, originally conceived to manage post-conflict situations and facilitate peace agreements.

Laraba pointed out the discrepancy between the intended temporary regime and the reality of a prolonged occupation, noting that the drafters of the time did not foresee a peaceful coexistence between the occupier and the occupied. This incongruity underscores the complexities and challenges inherent in addressing the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories.

Algeria's intervention at the ICJ serves to advocate for a comprehensive understanding of the legal, historical, and humanitarian dimensions of the occupation issue. Laraba's arguments contribute to the ongoing discourse surrounding the quest for justice and resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • 9:40 a.m. (GMT) South Africa shifts focus to Palestinian right to self-determination

Pieter Andreas Stemmet, Acting Chief State Law Adviser at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, announced South Africa's commitment to advocating for the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.

Stemmet emphasized that the UN has repeatedly recognized the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination. He condemned Israel's expansion of settlement activity, stating that it violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

In addressing concerns about potential apartheid in Israel, Stemmet referenced the Namibia vs. South Africa case, where the court ruled that race-based exceptions and limitations constitute a denial of fundamental rights and violate the principles of the UN Charter.

Stemmet underscored the well-documented extent of Israel's violations and reiterated that the prohibition of apartheid applies universally, including to Israel.

Drawing parallels to South Africa's illegal presence in Namibia, Stemmet called for attention to the legal consequences of Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

  • 9:15 a.m. (GMT) South Africa urges for an end to Israel's violations

South Africa's Ambassador to The Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela urged for an end to Israel's violations against Palestinian territories, emphasizing the critical importance of this advisory opinion for Palestinians.

Madonsela highlighted the prolonged occupation, spanning over 50 years, conducted in defiance of international law with little international intervention.

He questioned when Israel's impunity for rights violations and breaches of international norms would cease, particularly amidst ongoing attacks on Gaza and Israel's disregard for legal orders, indicating its belief in unrestricted actions against Palestinians.

* With Reuters

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 12 sec ago

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 4 min 47 sec ago

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 12 min 32 sec ago

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 51 min 16 sec ago

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
Updated 23 April 2024

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
  • “These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing

WASHINGTON: The US military called on Iraq’s government on Tuesday to take steps to safeguard American troops in both Iraq and Syria after failed attacks on Monday by Iran-aligned militia.
“These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk. We call on the government of Iraq to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of US forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.
“If these attacks continue, we will not hesitate to defend our forces, as we have done in the past.”