The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has concluded its third day of hearings on the issue of Israel’s occupation, settlement, and annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories, along with policies affecting the demographic composition and status of Jerusalem. This case has gathered global attention, as 52 countries and three international organisations participate in the proceedings, marking the most significant number of parties involved in any single World Court case.

The 15-judge panel is tasked with reviewing the legality of Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. The case was brought before the ICJ following a request by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for a non-binding advisory opinion on the matter. The six-day hearings, commencing this week, are expected to shed light on the complex legal and geopolitical challenges surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The crux of the case revolves around allegations that Israel has been engaged in policies aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.

One notable aspect of the proceedings is Israel’s decision not to participate in the oral arguments. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the 2022 UNGA request that led to the ICJ hearings, branding it as despicable.

Russia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, called for establishing an independent and viable Palestinian state in his address to the Court. Tarabrin condemned the Israeli retaliation as a collective punishment that cannot be justified.

The Russian ambassador cited images and described the impact of indiscriminate airstrikes that have resulted in civilian casualties and the destruction of residential areas. He emphasised the dire humanitarian conditions faced by up to 90 percent of Gazans, who have been forced to leave their homes against the backdrop of a strict Israeli blockade, leading to what he termed a “genuine humanitarian catastrophe.”

He also criticised the logic employed by Israeli officials and some Western countries that seek to defend indiscriminate violence against civilians by citing Israel’s duty to protect its nationals, arguing that violence begets violence and the cycle of hatred must be broken.

Tarabrin proposed a negotiated two-state solution, envisioning an independent and viable Palestinian state coexisting peacefully with Israel. He claimed that such a solution would be the most effective means to address Israel’s violations, ensure non-repetition, and redress the damage caused by the conflict. The Russian Federation invited the Court to contribute to creating conditions for successful final status negotiations, urging confirmation by the Court that both Israel and Palestine are obligated to resume such talks, with all states and organisations cooperating to make it possible.

Diego Colas, representing France, underscored the importance of a nuanced approach in the court’s Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation. Colas condemned Hamas’ October 7 attack, affirming Israel’s right to self-defense within the bounds of international law.

In his address, Colas emphasised that only a two-state solution can reconcile Israel’s security rights with the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for a viable independent state. He called for a decisive and credible restart of the peace process, requiring security arrangements and a sovereign Palestinian state living side by side with Israel within internationally recognized boundaries.

France expressed concern over Israel’s illegal settlement policies, condemning the eviction of Palestinian families and the destruction of properties. Colas stressed that the war in Gaza should not serve as a pretext for imposing unilateral measures that undermine the two-state solution.

France called for restitution or compensation for damage caused to the Palestinian population due to policies and practices illegal under international law. The French representative stressed that Israel should prosecute individuals responsible for human rights violations.

The Gaza Government Media Office warned that stopping World Food Programme aid to northern Gaza would be a death sentence for 750,000 people. The Health Ministry reported at least 29,313 Palestinians killed and 69,333 injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza since 7 October, with the death toll in Israel standing at 1,139.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) expressed disappointment at the US veto of another resolution. It highlighted the urgent need for an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access. The US is reportedly negotiating a separate resolution for a temporary truce.