S Africa's genocide accusation to 'plunge Israel into a deeper moral crisis' amid rising concern over risks of conflict spillover
Published: Dec 30, 2023 03:11 PM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

As "the hostilities between Israel and Hamas and other groups in Gaza intensify," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a latest statement via his spokesperson that he was gravely concerned about the further spillover of the conflict, which could have devastating consequences for the entire region.

The UN chief said "there is a continued risk of wider regional conflagration, the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, given the risk of escalation and miscalculation by multiple actors."

The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about the spillover effects of the continuing attacks by armed groups in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Houthi attacks against vessels in the Red Sea, which have escalated in recent days, according to a transcript of the statement. 

Guterres urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint and take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions in the region, reiterating in the statement his call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN Geng Shuang, said when addressing the UN Security Council on local time Friday that the protracted nature of the war would only cause more casualties on both sides.

"There is no safe place in Gaza," he said, warning that the situation on the ground is not allowing humanitarians to carry out their work and reach people in need with aid.

Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank and its continued escalation of raids have eroded the basis of a two-State solution, he added, stressing that Israel must cease all settlement activities and hold perpetrators accountable.

He further highlighted the importance of implementing the two-State solution and as well as guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people and urged the early resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel," Geng added.

South Africa has reportedly filed a case against Israel at the International Court for Justice (ICJ,) accusing it of crimes of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. 

In an application to the court on Friday, South Africa described Israel's actions in Gaza as "genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group".

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank with his country's past apartheid regime of racial segregation imposed by the white-minority rule that ended in 1994, Aljazeera reported on Friday. 

Israel has rejected South Africa's claims and application to the world court, saying through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs that South Africa "is calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, and that its "claim lacks both a factual and a legal basis," CNN reported. 

Xinhua News Agency cited the Gaza-based Health Ministry and reported on Friday that least 187 Palestinians were killed and 312 others were wounded in Israeli air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip during the past 24 hours. To date, total death toll of Palestinians has risen to 21,507 and injuries to 55,915 since the conflict erupted on October 7, the ministry added.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is a UN civil court that adjudicates disputes between countries. It is distinct from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which prosecutes individuals for war crimes.

As members of the UN, both South Africa and Israel are bound by the court.

Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Saturday that although such accusation at the ICJ would hardly affect Israeli military operation in the Gaza strip, but it will plunge Israel into a moral crisis and further impact its international image."

Zhu explained that "it will shake the Western concept of human rights and discourse that Israel has long relied upon, exacerbating Israel's predicament on the global stage." 

Chinese analysts also pointed out that the risks of spillover of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is rising but the scale of such spillover remains unclear. 

The conflict has already had repercussions beyond Israel and Palestine, affecting various countries and regions including Syria, Yemen, the Red Sea area, and Lebanon, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Moreover, Song highlighted specific incidents that have escalated tensions, such as Israel's assassination of a key Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military advisor in Syria, saying such event introduces significant uncertainties and demonstrates how the effects of the Israel-Palestine conflict have extended to areas like the Red Sea region and Syria, especially considering their connections to Iran. 

Zhu said that the scale of spillover would also depend on the attitude of the US and allied countries. "Once they decide to become offensive, the chance of the war expanding to the whole region will grow considerably."