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South Africa Urges World Court Intervention to Prevent Potential Israeli Assault on Rafah

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JOHANNESBURG – South Africa urged the UN’s top court Tuesday to place more legal pressure on Israel to halt a threatened offensive against the densely crowded Gaza city of Rafah.

Pretoria has already made a complaint against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, alleging that its assault on Gaza amounts to a breach of the Genocide Convention.
The court has yet to rule on the underlying issue, but on January 26 it ordered Israel to ensure in the interim that it takes action to protect Palestinian civilians from further harm and to allow in humanitarian aid.

Israel’s campaign has continued, however, and its forces are preparing an operation against Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have sought shelter from the bombardment. For South Africa, this is enough to ask the ICJ to revisit its provisional measures and issue a sterner order. “There has since been a significant development in the situation in Gaza requiring the Court’s urgent attention,” South Africa said in its updated request.

It said it was “gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large scale killing, harm and destruction.” “This would be in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court’s Order of 26 January 2024,” the South African presidency argued. “South Africa trusts this matter will receive the necessary urgency in light of the daily death toll in Gaza’’. The court late Tuesday posted South Africa’s request for updated measures on its account on X, formerly Twitter, with officials confirming it had been received.

Set up after World War II to rule in disputes between countries, the ICJ could make another ruling on emergency measures based on its own findings.  It was now up to the ICJ judges’ discretion to take action in the light of the request—based on the circumstances and the emergency nature of the situation, law officials said.

Israel — in response to the bloodiest attack in its history carried out by Hamas militants on October 7 — has reduced large parts of the Gaza Strip to rubble with its bombing campaign. The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 28,473, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The ICJ is to also open a new round of hearings Monday following a separate UN General Assembly request for a non-binding advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem.

Additional source: Voice of Africa

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