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South Africa asks World Court to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as part of additional emergency measures over the war in Gaza, the UN’s top court said on Friday.

In the ongoing case brought by South Africa, which accuses Israel of acts of genocide against Palestinians, the World Court in January ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians.

  • Israel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law in Gaza, has called South Africa’s genocide case baseless, and accused Pretoria of acting as “the legal arm of Hamas.”

In filings published on Friday, South Africa is seeking additional emergency measures in light of the ongoing military action in Rafah, which it calls the “last refuge” for Palestinians in Gaza. Israel says the operation in the southern city is crucial to defeating the remaining Hamas battalions holding out there.

South Africa asked the court to order that Israel cease the Rafah offensive and allow unimpeded access to Gaza for UN officials, organizations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.

According to South Africa, Israel’s military operation is killing the Palestinians of Gaza while at the same time starving them by denying them humanitarian aid to enter.

  • “Those who have survived so far are facing imminent death now, and an order from the Court is needed to ensure their survival,” South Africa’s filing said.

In March, lawyers for Israel said South Africa’s repeated requests for additional measures were an abuse of procedures after the ICJ ordered it to increase the provision of basic humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip, including food, water, fuel, and shelter, due to what it said are worsening living conditions for Palestinians in the war-torn territory.

Israel has asserted its offensive is aimed at Hamas, but faces a hard task avoiding civilian casualties, providing evidence that Hamas embeds itself and stores its weapons in civilian areas.

Israel also blames the ailing humanitarian situation on aid agencies’ failure to distribute supplies, and on Hamas and armed groups who have looted trucks entering the Gaza. The agencies say their work has become far more difficult amid the fighting and a lack of security for aid convoys.

  • Aid flow was further hampered when Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing with Gaza was shuttered for a few days this week following a deadly Hamas rocket attack, while the Rafah Crossing on the Egypt border has been closed since the IDF captured the Palestinian side of the terminal on Tuesday.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in April that there has been “a great surge in the amount of humanitarian aid going into Gaza.”

In total, it said, more than 6,000 trucks carrying food, water, medical supplies and tents entered the enclave last month.

  • “There is no limit to the amount of aid that can be facilitated into Gaza, and the month of April proved it,” it said on X.

War erupted when Hamas-led terrorists launched the October 7 massacre on southern communities, murdering 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 252 hostages to Gaza.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, at least 34,943 Palestinians have been killed and 78,572 injured in Israel’s military offensive in Gaza since October 7.

The figures have not been independently verified, do not distinguish between combatants and civilians, and include at least 15,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

  • A total of 271 IDF soldiers have been killed in the army’s Gaza ground operation.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, generally rules within a few weeks on requests for emergency measures.

It will likely take years before the court will rule on the merits of the overall genocide case.

While the ICJ’s rulings are binding and without appeal the court has no way to enforce them.

Source: TOI