Spain to join South Africa's genocide lawsuit against Israel

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares, during a press conference at the Palacio de Viana. Albares has announced that Spain will enter the proceedings of the International Court of Justice against Israel in the wake of the war in Gaza. The announcement comes days after the official recognition of Palestine by Spain, Norway and Ireland. Matias Chiofalo/EUROPA PRESS/dpa
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Spain plans to join South Africa's genocide lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said on Thursday, making it the first EU country to do so.

This is a "large-scale war that does not distinguish between civilian and military targets," said Albares. The "risk of escalation increases every time."

South Africa filed a lawsuit against Israel at the end of 2023, accusing the country of violating the Genocide Convention.

In an emergency ruling, the UN court ordered Israel to take protective measures to prevent genocide and also demanded Israel allow more humanitarian aid for people in Gaza.

Then, in May, the ICJ demanded Israel immediately end its controversial military operation in Rafah and that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdraw from the city in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has rejected all allegations, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoking the country's right to self-defence in response to the attack mounted by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and other groups on October 7.

The war began after Hamas gunmen killed some 1,200 people in Israel. Israel responded with a devastating aerial and ground campaign that, according to Hamas-run health authorities, has killed more than 36,000 people in the territory.

Israel has vowed to keep up its military operations until Hamas has been completely eliminated in Gaza.

"We have decided to take this step after realizing in recent days that the measures ordered by the International Court of Justice are being completely ignored and are far from being complied with," Albares told a press conference.

Spain is one of Europe's fiercest critics of Israel's war in Gaza and Sánchez suspended all arms exports to Israel in October.

Madrid also decided to recognize Palestine as a state, as have Norway and Ireland.

Turkey, Egypt and Chile have also backed South Africa's lawsuit, though it remains unclear when the court will rule finally on the genocide application. Legal experts predict that the process could take years.

While the top UN court's rulings are binding, the court has no means of forcing compliance. It can, however, call on the UN Security Council to act.

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares, during a press conference at the Palacio de Viana. Albares has announced that Spain will enter the proceedings of the International Court of Justice against Israel in the wake of the war in Gaza. The announcement comes days after the official recognition of Palestine by Spain, Norway and Ireland. Matias Chiofalo/EUROPA PRESS/dpa
Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares, during a press conference at the Palacio de Viana. Albares has announced that Spain will enter the proceedings of the International Court of Justice against Israel in the wake of the war in Gaza. The announcement comes days after the official recognition of Palestine by Spain, Norway and Ireland. Matias Chiofalo/EUROPA PRESS/dpa