by Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
South Africa’s request for an interim measure by the international court of justice to prevent Israel from committing acts of potential genocide – primarily by calling for a halt to combat operations – has suddenly taken on an urgency and relevance that seemed implausible a fortnight ago.
Crack legal teams are being assembled, countries are issuing statements in support of South Africa, and Israel has said it will defend itself in court, reversing a decades-old policy of boycotting the UN’s top court and its 15 elected judges.
The first hearing in The Hague is set for 11 and 12 January. If precedent is any guide, it is possible the ICJ will issue a provisional ruling within weeks, and certainly while the Israeli attacks on Gaza are likely to be still under way.