THE HAGUE, Netherlands (NEWSnet/AP) — South Africa launched a case Friday at the United Nations’ top court accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, and asking the court to order Israel to halt its attacks.

Israel rejected the filing “with disgust.”

South Africa’s submission to International Court of Justice alleges that “acts and omissions by Israel ... are genocidal in character” as they are committed with the intent “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza” as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.

South Africa has been a fierce critic of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Many there, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, have compared Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with South Africa’s past apartheid regime of racial segregation.

South Africa asked the Hague-based court to issue an interim order for Israel to immediately suspend its military operations in Gaza. A hearing into that request is likely in the coming days or weeks.

The Israeli government called the accusation “blood libel.” A Foreign Ministry statement said South Africa’s case lacks a legal foundation and constitutes a “vile exploitation and cheapening” of the court.

Israel also accused South Africa of cooperating with Hamas, the militant group whose Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel triggered the war in Gaza.

The statement also said Israel operates according to international law and focuses its military actions solely against Hamas, adding that the residents of Gaza are not an enemy. It asserted that it takes steps to minimize harm to civilians and to allow humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

South Africa can bring the case under the Genocide Convention, because both it and Israel are signatories.

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