The Spanish defense minister characterized the Gaza conflict as a 'real genocide', further straining relations with Israel after Madrid's recognition of a Palestinian state. Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment on Saturday, due to the Jewish Sabbath.

Israel adamantly refuted South Africa's accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), maintaining that it is engaged in combat with the Hamas militant group following an attack on October 7th.

In an interview with TVE state television, Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles echoed the sentiment expressed by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz earlier in the week, describing the Gaza conflict as a genocide. Robles emphasized that Madrid's recognition of Palestine was not intended to oppose Israel but to help bring an end to the violence in Gaza.

Gaza health officials reported that Israel's campaign has resulted in the deaths of nearly 36,000 Palestinians and extensive destruction in the enclave. Madrid's announcement of Palestinian state recognition, alongside Ireland and Norway, elicited a strong rebuke from Israel, leading to the recall of its ambassadors from the respective capitals.

In a significant emergency ruling, the ICJ judges ordered Israel to immediately cease its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah in response to a case brought by South Africa, which accused Israel of genocide. Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares stressed the mandatory nature of the ICJ's precautionary measures, including the cessation of Israel's offensive in Rafah.

South Africa criticized Israel for purportedly failing to fulfill its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, while Israel countered that it is acting in self-defense against Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the US and other Western countries.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez suggested that more countries recognizing the Palestinian state could increase international pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.