ISRAELI officials have “systematically declared their genocidal intent” throughout “every sphere of state” and this is being acted upon by soldiers on the ground in Gaza, the UN’s top court has heard.

Lawyers stood in staunch defence of Palestinians on Thursday as South Africa accused Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

As part of a series of provisional measures requested, South Africa has asked the court to command that Israel stops its military operations in Gaza to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention”.

South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi delivered a detailed summary of comments made by the likes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant, and Israeli Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, which he insisted proved “genocidal utterances” are “embodied in state policy”.

Not only that, he said these utterances have been “blatantly understood” by soldiers on the ground as “they engage in the destruction of Palestinians”.

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Ngcukaitobi told the ICJ: “Israel’s political leaders, military commanders and persons holding official positions, have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent.

“These statements are then repeated by soldiers on the ground in Gaza as they engage in the destruction of Palestinians and the physical infrastructure of Gaza.

“Israel’s genocidal intent is rooted in the belief the enemy is not just the military wing of Hamas, or indeed Hamas generally, but is embedded in the fabric of Palestinian life in Gaza.”

Ngcukaitobi quoted Netanyahu’s words from October 28 as Israeli forces prepared their land invasion of Gaza. The Israeli Prime Minister invoked the Biblical story of the total destruction of Amalek by the Israelites.

Netanyahu referred to the story again in a letter to soldiers and officers on November 3. The biblical passage reads: “Now go, attack Amalek, and proscribe all that belongs to him. Spare no one.”

The National: The case is being heard at the Peace Palace in The HagueThe case is being heard at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Image: Getty)

Elsewhere, the lawyer cited a quote from Gallant who said “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything […] we will reach all places.”

As he emphasised the “identity and authority” of the figures behind the comments, Ngcukaitobi said: “Genocidal utterances are therefore not out on the fringes, they are embodied in state policy.

“The intent to destroy is plainly understood by soldiers on the ground. It is also fully understood by some within the Israeli society, with government facing criticism for allowing in any aid to Gaza on the basis it is recanting on its ‘promise’ to starve Palestinians.

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“Any suggestion that Israeli officials did not mean what they said or were not fully understood by soldiers and civilians alike to mean what they said, should be rejected by this court.”

He added: “Many propagators of grave atrocities have protested they were misunderstood. That they did not mean what they said and that their own words were taken out of context.

“What state would admit to a genocide intent? Yet, the distinctive feature of this case has not been the silence as such, but the reiteration and repetition of genocidal speech throughout every sphere of state in Israel.”

To illustrate his points, Ngcukaitobi showed footage in the court of soldiers chanting about occupying Gaza as they declared they “won’t come back until victory”.

The National: Tembeka Ngcukaitobi addressing the courtTembeka Ngcukaitobi addressing the court (Image: UN)

Israel - which will present its defence on Friday - has vehemently rejected the accusations made by South Africa as "baseless".

Under international law, genocide is defined as committing one or more acts with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Other lawyers from a top team assembled by South Africa delivered powerful statements illustrating what they claimed to be genocidal intent by Israel.

The closing statement of Irish lawyer Blinne Ni Ghralaigh sent shockwaves across the world as people described it as “earth shattering” and “flawless”.

READ MORE: Every major Western nation has seen protests against Israel’s assault

She detailed how Palestinians were being “blown to pieces” daily, and more than 10 children each day were having legs amputated, sometimes without anaesthetic.

She went on: “Each day yet more desperate people will be forced to relocate from where they are sheltering or will be bombed in places they have been told to evacuate to. Entire multigenerational families will be obliterated.

“Yet more Palestinian children will become WCNSF. Wounded Child, No Surviving Family - the terrible new acronym born out of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian population in Gaza.”

Ni Ghralaigh also quoted a Palestinian pastor in his address to a congregation on Christmas Day when he said: “Gaza as we know it no longer exists. This is an annihilation. This is a genocide.”

Lawyer Adila Hassim detailed how Israel has shown a “calculated pattern of conduct" with genocidal intent, as she claimed supposed humanitarian measures such as the evacuation of hospitals are genocidal in themselves.

Some evacuations have been "clearly calculated to bring about the destruction of the population,” she stated.

The ICJ’s rulings are theoretically legally binding on parties to the ICJ - which include Israel and South Africa - but are not enforceable.

In 2022, the court ordered Russia to "immediately suspend military operations" in Ukraine, but this was ignored.

While Israel is unlikely to comply with any order from the court to halt operations, it likely fears that any such order would be a blow to its international standing.

The provisional measures requested by South Africa include that Israel should suspend military activities in Gaza, stop killing Palestinians and prevent forced displacement and deprivation of access to adequate food, water, fuel, shelter and sanitation.

A decision on provisional measures is expected to take a couple of weeks, but a final decision on whether Israel has violated the Genocide Convention could take years.