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Majority of countries argue Israel violated international law in last historic hearing at UN court

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THE HAGUE (AP) 鈥 The United Nations鈥 highest court on Monday wrapped up historic proceedings into the legality of Israel鈥檚 57-year occupation of lands sought by Palestinians for a future state, with most voices at the hearing arguing against the Israeli government.

Over six days, the International Court of Justice heard from an unprecedented number of countries and the majority argued Israel was violating international law and called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

鈥淭he real obstacle to peace is obvious 鈥 the deepening occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and failure to implement the two-state vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side,鈥 Turkey鈥檚 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Yildiz said.

The hearings addressed a request by the U.N. General Assembly for a non-binding opinion on the legality of Israel鈥檚 policies. The court says it will issue its opinion in 鈥渄ue course.鈥 On average, advisory opinions are released six months after oral proceedings.

Fiji was one of a handful of countries to argue that the court should refuse the request and directly mentioned the Hamas attacks that set off the war in Gaza and left about 1,200 people dead while Hamas militants also took nearly 250 others hostage.

鈥淭he events of 7 October 2023 have shown us what could happen if there were a complete and unconditional withdrawal without the necessary arrangements in place to guarantee the security of Israel,鈥 Filipo Tarakinikini said on behalf of the South Pacific Island nation.

the court against issuing an opinion, calling for an immediate withdrawal from the territories. Acting State Department legal adviser Richard Visek said last week the judges should not seek to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict 鈥渢hrough an advisory opinion addressed to questions focusing on the acts of only one party.鈥

to uphold the Palestinian right to self-determination and to declare 鈥渢hat the Israeli occupation is illegal and must end immediately, totally and unconditionally.鈥

Though the hearings were held against the backdrop of , which has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza鈥檚 Health Ministry, it pre-dated this round of conflict and focused instead on Israel鈥檚 open-ended occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Late last month, the court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any in its military offensive in Gaza. South Africa also filed a separate case accusing Israel of genocide because of its actions in the Strip, a charge that Israel denied.

Israel rejects accusations that its treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid and has accused U.N. bodies and international tribunals of bias.

It did not participate in the oral proceedings but, in a five-page written submission, Israel said the questions put to the court are prejudiced and 鈥渇ail to recognize Israel鈥檚 right and duty to protect its citizens.鈥

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state. Israel considers the West Bank to be a disputed territory, whose future should be decided in negotiations.

The peace process has repeatedly stalled because of Palestinian attacks, Israel鈥檚 expansion of settlements in occupied territory and the inability of the two sides to agree on issues like final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

In 2004, the court said that a separation barrier Israel built through east Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank was 鈥渃ontrary to international law.鈥 It also called on Israel to immediately halt construction. Israel has ignored the ruling.