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Spain applies to join South African case at UN court accusing Israel of genocide

A student holds a placard as she chants slogans (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)
A student holds a placard as she chants slogans (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

Spain is to ask a United Nations court for permission to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, its foreign minister has announced.

It is the first European country to take the step after South Africa filed its case with the International Court of Justice late last year.

It alleged that Israel was breaching the genocide convention in its military assault which has laid waste to large areas of Gaza.

Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Libya and the Palestinians have already requested to join the case being heard at the court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire for the enclave. Israel has not complied.

“There should be no doubt that Spain will remain on the right side of history,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said after his foreign minister made the announcement.

“We take the decision because of the ongoing military operation in Gaza,” foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said in Madrid.

“We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East, and for that to happen we must all support the court.”

Israel denies it is committing genocide in its military operation to crush Hamas triggered by the militant group’s October 7 attacks in southern Israel.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 250 more hostage in the surprise attacks. Israel’s air and land attacks have since killed 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Jose Manuel Albares
Jose Manuel Albares (Alamy/PA)

Spain’s request to join the case is the latest move by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Mr Sanchez to support peacemaking efforts in Gaza.

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognised a Palestinian state on May 28 in a co-ordinated effort by the three western European nations to add international pressure on Israel.

Slovenia, a European Union member along with Spain and Ireland, followed suit and recognised the Palestinian state this week.

More than 140 countries have recognised a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the UN — but none of the major western powers has done so.

While Mr Sanchez has denounced the attacks by Hamas and joined demands for the return of the remaining Israeli hostages, he has not shied away from the diplomatic backlash from Israel. Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz said that by recognising a Palestinian state, Mr Sanchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes”.

The latest step by Spain comes as elections for the European Parliament start across the 27-country bloc, with Spaniards voting on Sunday.

Mr Sanchez’s backing of the Palestinians is generally supported in Spain, where some university students have protested on campuses.

Preliminary hearings have already been held in the UN case but the court is expected to take years to reach a final decision.