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ICJ to review Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories

February 19, 2024

The World Court's opinion will not be legally binding and was requested by the UN General Assembly in 2022. It is separate from a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of violating the genocide convention.

The Peace Palace in The Hague, which houses the International Court of Justice
The Hague-based International Court of Justice is reviewing Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories at the request of the UN General AssemblyImage: Patrick Post/AP Photo/picture alliance

The UN's top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on Monday opened a week of hearings on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

Judges have been asked to review "occupation, settlement and annexation ... including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures."

The advisory opinion will not be legally binding.

The UN General Assembly requested the ICJ provide the advisory opinion before the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7 and the subsequent Israeli offensive in Gaza

What are the ICJ proceedings on the occupation?

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in the Six Day War in 1967. It withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, while still controlling the territory's borders.

Since 1967, Israel has expanded settlements within the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

The UN General Assembly asked ICJ judges to advise on how Israel's policies "affect the legal status of the occupation" and what legal consequences arise for all countries from this.

While the opinion would not be legally binding, it would carry "great legal weight and moral authority," according to the court.

Fifty states are due to address judges in the proceedings, including the United States, China, Russia, South Africa and Egypt. Israel will not participate directly but has sent written observations.

Hearings on Israel's Palestinian territory occupation begin

Palestinians accuse Israel of 'apartheid'

Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign affairs minister of the Palestinian National Authority, urged the ICJ to declare Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as illegal.

"Palestinians have endured colonialism and apartheid," al-Maliki said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of the ICJ hearings.

"The discussion at The Hague is part of the Palestinian attempt to dictate the results of the political agreement without negotiations," he said.

Other proceedings against Israel

This is the second time the UN has asked the ICJ for a non-binding opinion related to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

In July 2004, the ICJ found that Israel's separation wall in the occupied West Bank violated international law. Israel has not dismantled the structure.

The hearings this week are separate from a case filed by South Africa at the ICJ against Israel for allegedly violating the 1948 Genocide Convention in its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The court ruled that Israel must do everything it its power to prevent genocide and allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip but did not order a cease-fire. On Friday, it rejected South Africa's appeal to impose additional measures on Israel.

sdi/lo (Reuters, AFP)