By Toby Sterling
THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Large duelling demonstrations organised by Israel supporters and pro-Palestinian groups converged outside the International Court of Justice on Thursday as the court began hearings in the Gaza genocide case brought against Israel.
Thousands of pro-Israel protesters singing songs and carrying Dutch and Israeli flags marched to the gates of the Peace Palace in The Hague where the top U.N. court is hearing a suit brought by South Africa demanding the emergency suspension of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
Among the protesters were relatives of people kidnapped or killed during the lightning cross-border attack into Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.
“Today there are absurd accusations against Israel that it is committing genocide, while Hamas is committing crimes against humanity every day,” said protester Michael Levy, whose brother is held hostage by the Islamist Hamas.
“My brother and the rest of the hostages are there and no one is talking about that, and I am here to raise the voice of my brother and the rest of the hostages.”
Pro-Palestinian groups watched the proceedings on a large screen less than a hundred metres (330 feet) from the Israeli group, lighting red-and-green smoke flares and chanting slogans.
Dutch riot police kept the two groups separated throughout the morning, which delayed the Israeli support march through the city. No serious incidents were reported.
Protester Nihal Esma Almis said she had come to support the Palestinian people in the hope “that they finally get justice served, that there is a genocide happening and that the U.N. acts accordingly and the world acts accordingly.”
“What I hope is that they achieve what has not been achieved until now, which is a permanent ceasefire,” pro-Palestinian Dutch protester Sara Galli said, speaking in English.
“(We need) a safety corridor for humanitarian help so that it (Gaza crisis) doesn’t go even further due to the risk of infection, epidemic, lack of electricity, and food.”
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; writing by Bart Meijer; editing by Mark Heinrich)