South Africa asks ICJ to stop Israeli attacks on Rafah


South Africa (South Africa) asked the United Nations (UN) high court to order Israel to stop its military attack on Rafah in southern Gaza.

They presented their case at a two-day hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Israel will deliver its response in court on Friday (17/5/2024) local time.

South Africa is also trying to force Israel to allow unimpeded access to Gaza for aid workers, journalists and investigators.

The court is already considering a case filed by South Africa in January accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel rejected the claim as false and highly distorted.

Israel began its offensive against Hamas in Rafah 10 days ago, amid warnings from the UN and others of grave risks to civilians. More than one million refugees have taken refuge in Rafah and nearly 600,000 people have fled there since the start of the operation.

South Africa’s appeal to the court accused Israel of carrying out genocidal operations in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza, and said the operations should be ordered to stop.

Speaking in court at the start of the hearing, South African lawyer Vaughan Lowe KC said that evidence of horrific crimes and atrocities were completely destroyed and bulldozed, essentially erasing the bad record for those who had committed these crimes and making a mockery of justice.

Israel said its attack on Rafah was necessary to destroy the remaining Hamas battalion based there and to rescue about 130 Israeli hostages it believed were being held there.

In January, in a highly charged and closely watched case around the world, the ICJ ordered Israel to take action to prevent potential acts of genocide in Gaza. It also orders Israel to do more to enable the provision of aid to the people there.

The court’s then president, Joan Donoghue, told the BBC last month that the ICJ had not ruled that there was a plausible case of genocide, but rather that the Palestinian people had a right to be protected from genocide, as South Africa claimed.

The ICJ is not expected to issue a decision on genocide cases for several years. Its decisions are legally binding, but in practice cannot be enforced by the courts.

This latest application is the third that South Africa, whose governing party has a long history of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, has submitted to the ICJ against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

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