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During defense speech at ICJ hearing, Israel announces IDF discovered 50 Hamas tunnels that 'cross into Egypt'

Israeli representative rebuts charges of genocide, says ‘we do not wish harm to civilians, Hamas does’

Israeli forces destroy Hamas terror tunnels in Gaza (Photo: Screenshot/IDF)

Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam made an appearance at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last Friday to address the South African petition for a temporary order of a ceasefire declaration to stop a military operation in Rafah. 

Answering the South African government's claim that Israel is in violation of the Genocide Convention, Noam said the charges are “completely divorced from facts and circumstances.” 

“South Africa presents the court, yet again, for the fourth time within the scope of less than five months, with a picture that is completely divorced from the facts and circumstances,” the Israeli representative told the court. “We do not wish harm to these civilians as Hamas does.” 

“That is precisely why Israel is taking steps to try and contend with the massive complexity that such a situation presents,” Noam continued. “That is why there has not been a large-scale assault on Rafah, but rather specific, limited and localized operations prefaced with evacuation efforts and support for humanitarian activities.” 

Noam said the war in Gaza is “tragic and terrible for Israelis and Palestinians, and it has exacted a terrible human price – but it is not genocide.” 

He also restated the Israeli government’s position when he said, “If the hostages were released and Hamas were to lay down its arms the hostilities would cease.” 

The latest petition by South Africa is the fourth time the country has asked the ICJ for emergency measures since filing its allegations that Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip constitutes genocide, according to the terms of the Genocide Convention. A previous request to impose emergency measures was dismissed by the court. 

The court is expected to decide on the petition in the next few days. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that an IDF operation in Rafah is necessary for Israel to achieve its objectives in the war and to protect the nation from another such invasion. 

Last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the IDF’s operations in Rafah would be expanding, and spoke about Hamas tunnels which had been recently destroyed. 

In his speech to the ICJ, Noam also mentioned the tunnels in Rafah. 

“Also present in Rafah, is an intricate underground tunnel infrastructure that runs underneath the city, and provides ample space for operatives, command and control rooms, and military equipment,” Noam told the court. 

“Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah, from which approximately 50 tunnels cross into Egypt,” he continued. “These tunnels are used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition.” 

Noam warned that the tunnels could also “potentially be used to smuggle out of Gaza hostages or Hamas senior operatives.” 

Several analysts indicated that the existence of such a large quantity of smuggling tunnels could be part of the Egyptian government’s motivation for opposing an Israeli entrance into Rafah. 

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) CEO Mark Dubowitz said, “Israel has finally lifted the veil on one of the region’s open secrets: that the Egyptians, while cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in their midst, have been turning a blind eye and likely making a handsome profit off gun-running to Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian affiliate.” 

Dubowitz called on the United States to pressure Egypt to come clean about smuggling activity and its participation. 

“There are potentially dozens of hostages in Rafah — Americans among them, perhaps — who now face the prospect of being transported into the Egyptian Sinai, never to be seen again. The United States must use its diplomatic and military aid to Cairo to stop Cairo’s double game,” Dubowitz wrote. 

Israel has gradually increased its operations in Rafah while continuing to increase humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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