MADRID. – Spain says it will join the case filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which accuses Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention in its war on the Gaza Strip.

Making the announcement on Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said, “We made this decision in light of the continuation of the military operation in Gaza.”

“We also observe with enormous concern the regional extension of the conflict,” he said in a news conference.

Spain took the decision to not only “let peace return to Gaza and the Middle East,” but also due to its commitment to international law, Albares said.

“Our sole goal is to put an end to the war and to advance on the road of applying the two-state solution”, Albares said, a week after Spain, along with Ireland and Norway, recognised the state of Palestine.

The move by the three countries sparked Israeli fury, which accused them of “rewarding terrorism” and withdrew its ambassadors.

This week Palestinian officials applied at the top UN court for permission to join South Africa’s case against Israel.

The request alleges that Israel’s ongoing military operation is “part of a systematic effort to wipe Palestinian society and its culture and social institutions from the map.” The request to the International Court of Justice was made on behalf of the “State of Palestine” and signed by Palestinian Authority foreign ministry official Ammar Hijazi.

It is unclear how long the court’s judges will take to rule on the request. If granted, Palestinian officials will be able to address the court in writing and during public hearings.

In their request, the Palestinians said they are directly affected by South Africa’s case against Israel.

South Africa brought its case against Israel in late December, accusing it of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza, which began in October, has surpassed 36,500, according to health officials in the besieged and bombarded territory.

It will likely take years before the ICJ will rule on the merits of the genocide case. While its rulings are binding and cannot be appealed, the UN’s top court has no way to enforce them.

Israel has repeatedly said it is acting in accordance with international law in Gaza. It has called the genocide case baseless and accused South Africa of acting as “the legal arm of Hamas”.

Spain will now join several countries including Colombia, Egypt and Turkey in formally requesting to join the case against Israel. – Al Jazeera

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