After three months besieging and bombarding the Gaza Strip in its war against Hamas, Israel faced a charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice on Thursday, as South Africa argued that Israel "means to create conditions of death” in Gaza, and demanded the court order an emergency suspension of the military campaign.

Presenting their case to a packed courtroom in The Hague, South African lawyers offered as evidence the words of Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said in October that Israel would impose a complete siege on the territory because it was fighting "human animals.”

Israel categorically denies the genocide accusation, and is set to present its defense Friday, the second part of the two-day hearing in the United Nations’ top judicial body. The hearings will be the first time that Israel has chosen to defend itself in person in such a setting, a sign of the high stakes of the moment, with Israel’s international reputation falling around much of the world over its campaign’s toll in Gaza.