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The United Nations’ top court began a hearing into Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land Monday, even as Israel and Hamas continue to fight a bloody war in the Gaza strip that has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.

During the hearing at The Hague-based International Court of Justice, Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki accused Israel of creating an apartheid-like system of discrimination against Palestinians, and for the sake of a two-state solution urged the court to declare that Israel’s occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state is illegal.

Over the coming months, judges will probe the legality of Israel’s occupation of territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War – the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem – lands Palestinians claim for the creation of an independent state.

Over the past 57 years, Israel has built 146 settlements in the West Bank, as well as annexed east Jerusalem, making the city its capital. In total, 700,000 Jewish settlers live in the disputed areas, except Gaza, where Israel withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005, the newswire said.

A majority of the international community deems these settlements illegal and doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. More than 50 are scheduled to speak at the hearing.

The hearings follow a request by the UN General Assembly for a non-binding advisory opinion into Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. Judges will likely take months to issue an opinion.

Israel’s representatives were not scheduled to speak during the hearing but submitted a five-page letter to the court, saying that the case “fail(s) to recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens,” address Israeli security concerns or acknowledge Israeli-Palestinian agreements to negotiate issues, including “the permanent status of the territory, security arrangements, settlements, and borders.”

Meanwhile, the hearing is piling pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ally of the extreme right settler movement, who on Saturday faced renewed calls to step down by thousands of demonstrators in Tel Aviv, the largest protest since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

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