The Government should take part in legal action led by South Africa over Israel’s acts of war in Gaza, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Parker says.

He’s called on the Government to do so, saying while last month an overwhelming majority of countries, including New Zealand, voted at the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire, Israel had “shown no intention of letting up”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has previously said the “ultimate outcome” sought was a permanent and durable ceasefire, and that the Government supported the gathering of evidence of possible war crimes for an International Criminal Court process, adding it was crucial it was a balanced and fair process.

Today, Parker said some Israeli Government Ministers continued to “call for Palestinians to be ejected from their own land”. The war was launched after the Hamas terror attack in Israel on October 7.

“South Africa has taken allegations of genocide in Gaza to the International Court of Justice, a claim which Israel denies,” he said. “The International Court of Justice is the appropriate body to investigate and determine whether the Genocide Convention has been breached, and whether the international laws relating to war are being breached.

“New Zealand under the former Labour Government ‘intervened’ in the recent genocide case between Russia and Ukraine at the International Court of Justice and made legal submissions to support the Court in its deliberations.

“New Zealand should do the same now for Gaza.”

Parker said the Government should also support interim measures South Africa had sought as part of the case, which were aimed at immediately ceasing hostilities.

“This is the world’s best and most immediate opportunity to stop the killing in Gaza.”

Parker said if the International Court of Justice decided in favour of the interim measures, their finding would in turn be considered by the UN Security Council.

If Israel ignored a Security Council directive to cease hostilities, it would open itself up to UN sanctions, he said.

“The carnage in Gaza must end. Many of the Israeli public are distressed by the accusations at the International Court of Justice. Many also see an end to hostilities is the only way the hostages will be released, and pressure on the Netanyahu government to end the fighting is real.”

The International Court of Justice will begin consideration of the interim measures later this week, Parker said, and it was expected the court’s consideration of the genocide claim could take up to two years or more.

Dismantled Hamas infrastructure

Israel has vowed to keep going until it destroys Hamas, which triggered the war with its October 7 attack into southern Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1200 people, mainly civilians, and abducted around 250 others, nearly half of whom were released during a week-long ceasefire in November.

The Israeli military says it has dismantled Hamas infrastructure in northern Gaza – where entire neighbourhoods have been demolished – but is still battling small groups of militants. The offensive’s focus has shifted to the southern city of Khan Younis and built-up refugee camps in central Gaza.

Since the war began, Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians, roughly 1% of the territory’s population, and more than 58,000 people have been wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

The New Zealand Government has been approached for comment.

In early December Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in Parliament there had been a “devastating level of human suffering and loss of life” in the region since “Hamas unleashed its shocking terror on the people of Israel”.

He said a permanent cessation of armed hostilities was the “ultimate outcome we all seek” but the conditions for a permanent, “durable” ceasefire needed to be reached.

Reports of the disproportionate targeting of civilians were concerning, he said, and raised serious questions about whether international humanitarian law was being “fully observed”.

“Accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law is crucial. Whether these have been committed requires a decision from a competent judicial body such as the International Criminal Court. It is not for me to comment on specific cases without the facts and evidence. We support the gathering of evidence of possible war crimes for an International Criminal Court process.”

He also said it was important not just “one side of the story” was told and there was balance and fairness in the consideration of international issues.

– additional reporting from the Associated Press