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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday began a two-day preliminary hearing on South Africa’s case against Israel charging genocide in the Gaza Strip, a landmark proceeding that could shape the course of the conflict and have serious implications for the Jewish nation, Axios reported.

Last month, South Africa initiated legal proceedings against Israel at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, accusing it of committing genocide during its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The African nation is alleging that Israel’s operations in the Palestinian enclave violated its obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, and that its actions “are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part” of the Palestinian population in Gaza.

It also accused Israeli leaders and officials of making statements that express “genocidal intent.”

During Thursday’s proceedings, South Africa’s legal representatives urged the court to issue urgent provisional measures, including a halt to the fighting in Gaza, the Washington Post noted.

Israel has fiercely rejected the accusations as “atrocious and preposterous,” adding that it has the right to defend itself following Hamas’ attack in October.

Analysts said that a decision on provisional measures could come in a matter of weeks, adding, however, that the case could take years to conclude and the ICJ does not have real enforcement powers.

Even so, the Israeli government has instructed its embassies to press their host countries to issue statements against South Africa’s case. Officials noted that a ruling by the ICJ “could have significant potential implications that are not only in the legal world but have practical bilateral, multilateral, economic, security ramifications.”

South Africa’s case has received support from many Arab or Muslim-majority countries, as well as some nations in South America, such as Colombia and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the United States has criticized the case as “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis.” The United Kingdom, Guatemala and Hungary have also criticized the case.

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