Live updates on the Israel-Hamas war: latest news from ICJ hearings and Gaza

Live updates on the Israel-Hamas war: latest news from ICJ hearings and Gaza

The United States and Russia made opposing statements Wednesday during hearings at the International Court of Justice aimed at determining whether Israel’s prolonged occupation of majority-Palestinian territory was legal.

They were among 50 countries expected to appear before the ICJ on the case – an unusually high number – underscoring the fact that the Court, which once focused on questions like border disputes, has suddenly become a place to consider questions major and sensitive international issues.

“The ICJ, which was previously seen as a kind of backwater of the UN system where disputes died down, is increasingly transforming into a platform for states to try to corner each other” , declared Richard Gowan, director of the UN. for the International Crisis Group.

As Russia and the United States each use the court’s new prominence to promote their own agendas, they accuse the other of hypocrisy.

The United States on Wednesday reiterated its long-standing defense of Israel’s conduct of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its need to defend itself, while Russia said that need did not justify not Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In recent months, the Court, the UN’s highest judicial body, has also heard preliminary arguments in a case brought by South Africa against Israel, accusing it of genocide, while Ukraine and Russia have confronted regarding their war.

The increased politicization of a court created around strictly legal issues worries the powers that be, Mr. Gowan said. Recent cases involving Israel, Ukraine, and Myanmar have touched on issues that the United States, Russia, and China, respectively, view as their areas of expertise.

“The ICJ is a place where small countries can align and leverage international law to limit what big powers and their allies are trying to do,” Mr. Gowan said.

Ukrainian soldiers fired on a Russian target in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The case over the legality of the Israeli occupation was sparked by a General Assembly vote well before the current war. In a separate case brought by South Africa after the war began, judges have yet to rule on whether Israel committed genocide, but ruled that Israel must take steps to ‘to prevent.

The United States and Russia did not address each other directly in the Hague courtroom on Wednesday. But Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, has repeatedly criticized the United States, calling American policy an obstacle to the search for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The United States and Russia have repeatedly been accused of applying double standards at the UN in both conflicts, with the United States failing to press for a ceasefire in Gaza while demanding a ceasefire in Ukraine, while Russia criticizes Israel for some of This is exactly what Moscow did in Ukraine.

For example, Ambassador Tarabrin said Wednesday that the deaths Israel experienced during the Hamas-led attack on October 7 did not justify the subsequent level of Israeli violence in Gaza. Although the hearing on the legality of the Israeli occupation does not focus on Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, much of Russia’s argument has focused on the current war in this zone.

“We cannot accept the logic of Israeli officials and some Western countries who try to defend indiscriminate violence against civilians by referring to Israel’s duty to protect its nationals,” Tarabrin said.

Yet the Kremlin said it was forced to invade eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians under attack there. The Russian invasion, launched in 2022, has devastated dozens of towns and villages in the region and killed thousands of civilians.

Asked about this double standard in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, mainly responded dodged the question. He argued that residents of regions annexed by Moscow voted in a September 2022 referendum to join Russia, a referendum rejected as illegal by most members of the United Nations.

A large majority of United Nations members have repeatedly voted to demand that Russia end the violence in Ukraine. The ICJ issued a similar ruling, although earlier this month it rejected many of Ukraine’s accusations against Russia before the court, essentially saying its jurisdiction was limited.

At this week’s hearing, Israel refused to participate in the proceedings and the Russian ambassador stressed that no decision should be imposed on it. The court should issue a non-binding advisory opinion.

The ICJ has no enforcement mechanism: it can only forward its decisions for action to the Security Council. The five permanent members can veto it, as the United States has done repeatedly with ceasefire resolutions in Gaza and as Russia has with its attempts to end the fighting in Ukraine.

Marlise Simons And Cassandra Vinograd reports contributed.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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