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Ireland is to intervene in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel

Ireland is to intervene in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the top court in the United Nations.

Micheal Martin, Ireland’s deputy leader, said that he had been told there is a “basis” for an intervention in the high-profile case.

A Declaration of Intervention is now being prepared for the Irish government to approve and will be filed once South Africa has filed its substantive case.

South Africa has taken a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing it of a genocide in Gaza.

Ireland’s intervention is expected to focus on prioritising the protection of civilians.

The intervention will not mean Ireland is stating Israel is committing genocide, which is a matter for the court to decide.

According to local health authorities, more than 30,000 people have been killed and a further 70,000 injured in the Gaza Strip since the start of Israel’s military offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

The UN said that a quarter of the region’s 2.3 million population face starvation and around 80% have fled their homes.

The offensive was launched after a Hamas attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw around 250 hostages taken, some of whom are still held captive.

An interim ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

It could be years before the case reaches a final judgment.

Speaking on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs minister Mr Martin said he has given legal staff in his department direction “to pursue a legal intervention” into the South African case at the ICJ.

He said that he requested that “very serious” legal work be done as the tests that are applied under the Genocide Convention “are very narrow and have a very high threshold”.

He said the issue would be brought back to government for a more “formal” decision when South Africa files its case and when further legal work is done.

“I had asked my legal staff to do preliminary legal work, last week I was briefed by my legal team in that respect and we believe we have a basis now for an intervention, obviously more substantive work has to be done.

“South Africa has yet to table its substantive memorial and that will be some months away yet.”

He said involving a third party in an ICJ case is a “rare” and “complex” matter.

This will be Ireland’s fourth time getting involved in cases before the ICJ; it also intervened in the Ukraine vs Russia case.

Mr Martin said “the rapidly deteriorating situation” in Gaza was now “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

“Clearly, aid is being prevented from going in, but the most vital essentials of life are being prevented from going into Gaza.

“This constitutes significant harm and destruction to a people, and to the people of Gaza.”

He added: “As the UN Secretary General said as he inspected long lines of blocked relief trucks waiting to enter Gaza during his visit to Rafah at the weekend; ‘it is time to truly flood Gaza with life-saving aid. The choice is clear: surge or starvation’. I echo his words today.”