ICC receives Palestine referral from Rome Statute parties

The International Criminal Court (ICC) released a statement on Nov. 17 saying it received a referral from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, Djibouti and South Africa regarding the Situation in the State of Palestine. ICC prosecutor Karim AA Khan KC affirmed that an investigation is currently ongoing with its own dedicated team. The five countries made the ICC referral in accordance with their powers under the Rome Statute. All five of the referring countries are party to the Rome Statute, as is the State of Palestine; Israel is not.

The current war between Israel and Hamas has lasted over 40 days, killing more than 11,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a humanitarian ceasefire and measures to prevent further atrocities.

From Jurist, Nov. 19. Used with permission.

Notes: As accusations of genocide mount against Israel, it continues to reject the authority of the International Criminal Court.

Bolivia cut off diplomatic relations with Israel Oct. 31. Bolivia previously broke ties with Israel in 2009 under President Evo Morales in protest of Israel's actions in Gaza. In 2020, right-wing President Jeanine Áñez re-established ties. (The Hill)

António Guterres came under harsh criticism from Israel after saying Oct. 24: "It is important to...recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation." (The Guardian)

Israel and Hamas reach deal for temporary ceasefire

Israel and Hamas reached a deal on Nov. 21 that includes a four-day ceasefire as well as the release of 50 Hamas-held hostages and many Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The deal also includes measures to allow the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Qatar, which helped negotiate the deal, released a statement saying that the exact timing of the ceasefire would be disseminated within 24 hours of the deal's announcement. Israeli media has reported that government officials believe it will go into effect on Nov. 23, after a 24-hour period allowing Israeli citizens to ask the Supreme Court to block the release of specific prisoners. (Jurist)

The full Israeli cabinet approved the agreement, with only members of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir's ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit faction voting against. (ToI)

South Africa assembly calls for suspending diplomatic relations

The South African National Assembly passed a motion Nov. 21 calling on the government to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel. The ruling African National Congress sided with the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which drafted the motion, in urging the closure of Israel's embassy to South Africa, but amended it to say the closure should only last "until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and Israel commits to binding UN-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable and lasting peace." (Jurist)

Amnesty International calls for Gaza war crimes investigation

Amnesty International on Nov. 20 called for an "expedited" investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. The human rights organization cited two cases in which they said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombed targets with no "military objective." A spokesperson for the organization called the bombings "part of a documented pattern of disregard for Palestinian civilians." (Jurist)

Record number of media casualties in ongoing Israel-Hamas war

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement Nov. 21 condemning the record death toll of 53 journalists and members of the press during the current Israel-Hamas war. The organization added that the war marks "the deadliest month for journalists since CPJ began gathering data in 1992." (Jurist)

Tunnels but no 'command center' at al-Shifa hospital

The IDF released a statement Nov. 18 saying it had found a Hamas tunnel shaft under Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital. It also released footage of tunnels taken days earlier. CNN and other news outlets visited the exposed shaft and confirmed the presence of a tunnel, but could not establish whether or not the tunnel led to a command center. (Al Jazeera)

'Band-aid' pause begins in Gaza

A long-awaited humanitarian "pause" began Nov. 24 in Gaza, but aid groups say a days-long break from the violence will do little to relieve the catastrophe caused by Israel's bombardment. The UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was prepared to receive at least 150 trucks of aid each day (still well short of what was allowed in before Oct. 7). The pause may be a chance "to start repairing civilian infrastructure," said UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini, and to reach Palestinians in forcibly emptied north Gaza. But people in Gaza face "the risk of starvation" and disease as food and health systems collapse, aid groups warn. Newborn babies are dying from preventable diseases, Oxfam said, warning that the end of the four-day pause will be a band-aid "ripped off a bleeding wound." Palestinians and many (though not all) aid groups are calling for a full ceasefire. In a message posted on X (formerly Twitter), an Israeli military spokesperson said: "The war is not over."

As aid groups tiptoe, tensions flare among their staff
Israel's siege of Gaza continues to drive tension and outrage among the staff at aid groups responding to the humanitarian fallout. World Food Program chief Cindy McCain faces a backlash for attending a security forum that included an award presented to "the people of Israel"—while reportedly skipping a UN-wide moment of silence held to commemorate the more than 100 aid workers killed by Israeli air-strikes. McCain's attendance at the security forum, first reported by PassBlue, "could compromise WFP's perceived neutrality by being seen as siding with one party to a conflict," according to a letter, addressed to the WFP's ethics office, that is circulating among agency staff. Another letter making the rounds calls for McCain's resignation, Devex reported.

Separately, a staff petition sent to UNICEF boss Catherine Russell urges the agency to "condemn the collective punishment of Gazans and Palestinian people." Elsewhere, a letter attributed to staff at dozens of international NGOs says their organizations are "crippled by fears of being accused of antisemitism," and urges a stronger stand: "Our role cannot be strictly limited to providing aid, which will only, if even, help some to survive another day under siege." (The New Humanitarian)

First Palestinians and Israelis freed from captivity

After nearly seven weeks in captivity, 24 hostages seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack are now back in Israel. In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinians hours later at Ramallah in the West Bank. The hostages were initially transferred to Egypt before being returned to Israel. They included 13 Israelis, all women and children. Four were young children and most of the nine women were over age 70. The remainder consisted of 10 Thais and one Filipino. The released Palestinians were all women and youth, mostly held without trial in "administrative detention" for such offenses as throwing stones or the broadly defined charge of "supporting terrorism."

In Ramallah, where crowds gathered to celebrate the release of the Palestinians, the festive scene turned into one of protest against Israel's occupation and the war on Gaza. Many of the protesters praised Hamas, describing the Oct. 7 attack as an act of resistance. Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at about 150 Palestinian protesters outside the West Bank's Ofer detention center, where the prisoners were being held. (NPR, NYT, El Pais)

Israel and Hamas agree to extend humanitarian 'pause'

Qatar announced Nov. 27 that Israel and Hamas agreed to extend a humanitarian pause in hostilities for an additional two days. Later that day, Israel released 33 additional Palestinian detainees. In exchange, Hamas released 11 Israeli hostages. Monday marked the fourth day of the temporary pause in hostilities between the two parties, which began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

The White House confirmed the extension, with National Security Council official John Kirby stating, "Hamas has committed to releasing another 20 women and children over the next two days. We would, of course, hope to see the pause extended further, and that will depend upon Hamas continuing to release hostages." 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that Israel is prepared to release an additional 50 female prisoners "in the event that a release of additional Israeli hostages is carried out." (Jurist)

ICC prosecutor concludes first trip to Israel and Palestine

Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim A.A. Khan concluded his trip to Israel and Palestine on Dec. 3, issuing a statement stressing the importance of international law. This was the first visit to Israel and Palestine by an ICC prosecutor.

Families of October 7 attack victims asked the ICC to investigate possible war crimes and genocide committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Palestinian rights groups, and five countries, filed their own referrals to the ICC, saying Israel was committing war crimes and genocide. Khan spoke with the Israeli families who requested his visit and toured "scenes of calculated cruelty" in southern Israel. He also met with Palestinian authorities including President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayeh and Minister of Justice Mohammad Shalaldeh.

A number of Palestinian rights groups refused to meet with Khan, accusing him of prioritizing Israeli claims over longstanding Palestinian complaints. "As Palestinian human rights organizations, we decided not to meet him," said Ammar Al-Dwaik, director general of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Palestine's national human rights institution. "I think the way this visit has been handled shows that Mr Khan is not handling his work in an independent and professional manner." (Jurist)

Al Jazeera to file war crimes complaint with ICC

Al Jazeera announced Dec. 16 that it will file a war crimes complaint with the International Criminal Court against Israel after the death of news photographer Samer Abu Daqqa in Khan Yunis, Gaza, the previous day, apparently in a drone strike carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces. (Jurist, CPJ)

South Africa brings genocide accusation against Israel​ at ICJ

South Africa initiated proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Dec. 29, according to a press release from the ICJ. South Africa alleges that Israel’s actions during its military operations in Gaza violate the 1948 Genocide Convention. South Africa’s application states that Israel’s acts are “genocidal in character” because they are "intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip."

South Africa also cited an AP report claiming that Israeli military attacks have "wreaked more destruction than the razing of Syria's Aleppo between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine’s Mariupol, or proportionally, the Allied bombing of Germany in World War II."

Israel denies that its conduct in Gaza violates its obligations under the Genocide Convention, asserting that "[t]he accusation of genocide against Israel is not only wholly unfounded as a matter of fact and law, it is morally repugnant" and "antisemitic." (Jurist

South Africa lays out genocide case against Israel at ICJ

Proceedings began Jan. 11 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a case centering on allegations that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. South Africa has jurisdiction to file suit against Israel in the ICJ given that both it and Israel are members of the United Nations, and that both states are party to the Genocide Convention.

"Palestinians in Gaza are subject to relentless bombing wherever they go... They are killed in their homes, in places where they seek shelter, in hospitals, in schools, in mosques, in churches, and as they tried to find food and water for their families. They have been killed if they have failed to evacuate the places to which they have fled and even if they attempted to flee along Israeli-declared safe routes," said Adila Hassim, a lawyer representing South Africa, told the court during the opening hearing. (Jurist)

Israel delivered a fiery response."The applicant is essentially asking the court to substitute the laws of armed conflict between a state and a lawless terrorist organization with the lens of a so-called genocide of a state against a civilian population. But it is not offering the court a lens; it is offering it a blindfold," Tal Becker, legal advisor to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said in his opening remarks.

Among the "many distortions" presented in South Africa's complaint, Becker said the most egregious was its minimization of the fact that the ongoing conflict involves two parties, not a lone aggressor. "In the applicants’ telling, it is almost as if there is no armed conflict taking place between two parties at all. No grave threat to Israel and its citizens. Only an Israeli assault on Gaza. The court is told of widespread damage to buildings, but it is not told, for example, how many thousands of those buildings were destroyed because they were booby-trapped by Hamas. How many became legitimate targets because of the strategy of using civilian sites and protected objects for military purposes." (Jurist)