Accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, South Africa files a lawsuit at the top UN tribunal.

Netherlands’ The Hague South Africa filed a petition at the top court of the United Nations on Friday, charging Israel with killing Palestinians in Gaza. For the first time in the present conflict, they challenged the court to order Israel to stop its assaults. Israel promptly dismissed the application, expressing its disapproval “with disgust.”

South Africa claims in its submission to the International Court of Justice that Israel is doing acts that are genocidal in nature, aiming to exterminate the Palestinians in Gaza as members of the larger Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group. Israel’s immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza is demanded in the filing as an interim measure. An interim order could be issued in the upcoming weeks, but the lawsuit could take years.

Israel vehemently denied the allegations of genocide, calling them a “blood libel” and asserting that there is insufficient evidence to support South Africa’s claims. South Africa was allegedly involved in an attack in southern Israel that left many dead, and Israel accused South Africa of working with Hamas. Israel declares that it will obey international law, limiting the scope of its military operations to Hamas and taking precautions to prevent civilian casualties.

Given that both South Africa and Israel are signatories to the Genocide Convention, South Africa may pursue the lawsuit under its provisions. Although the court’s rulings are legally enforceable, they are not always obeyed, thus the case’s success in ending the conflict is still up in the air.

Citing claims of international crimes, South Africa expressed severe concern for civilians injured by Israeli attacks in Gaza. Israel has already been charged by the nation’s president with war crimes and actions “tantamount to genocide.” Additionally, South Africa had demanded that the International Criminal Court look into Israel’s activities in Gaza.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry praised South Africa’s charges against Israel and urged the court to act quickly to defend Palestinians. Human Rights Watch emphasized the difference between South Africa’s case and a criminal case against specific accused perpetrators at the International Criminal Court, noting that it gives the International Court of Justice a chance to examine Israel’s actions through the lens of the 1948 Genocide Convention.