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South Africa: Israel's attack on Rafah disregards ICJ ruling

February 14, 2024 at 10:05 am

A view of a destroyed building as the Israeli attacks continue in Rafah, Gaza on February 7, 2024 [Jehad Alshrafi – Anadolu Agency]

South Africa’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, has warned that Israel’s attack on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah means ignoring the precautionary measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel on 26 January.

This statement was made ahead of yesterday’s Security Council meeting in which he said that hunger has become a very real threat because of military attacks in different parts of the world, noting that this can be seen clearly in Palestine, Sudan and Yemen.

“The announcement of expanded military operations in Rafah, which has turned into a de facto refugee camp, further perpetuates the displacement of Palestinians and threatens civilians’ almost non-existent livelihoods. This completely disregards the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on Jan. 26.”

He stressed that South Africa condemns all types of restrictions on humanitarian aid, targeting of infrastructure and the use of starvation as a tool of war.

“This Council continues to witness the devastating effects of armed conflict on civilians, exacerbating humanitarian crises, as well as food and nutrition insecurity,” he said.

“This is a blatant disregard of international humanitarian law, especially non-protection of non-combatants caught in the crossfire, as well as the deliberate denial of access to humanitarian relief, which remains prevalent.”

In a related context, Algerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Youcef Cherfa, said, “This bombardment left nothing alive” referring to the Israeli attacks on Gaza, adding that it has caused a suffocating food crisis and deteriorating environmental situation in the area.

He pointed out that Israel does not respect even the most basic moral values, saying: “The international community is a bystander in the face of these flagrant violations instead of putting an end to this Zionist aggression.”

Cherfa criticised the “systemic defamation campaign” against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), urging the council to put an immediate end to the suffering of the Palestinian people and ensure the immediate delivery of aid to the affected civilians.

Earlier yesterday, South Africa submitted an urgent request to the ICJ to conduct an assessment regarding Israel’s expansion of its military operations into the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

On 26 January, the ICJ announced its preliminary rulings in the case brought by South Africa within the framework of the 1948 Genocide Convention and ordered Israel to take measures to prevent genocide against the Palestinians and improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Despite the ICJ rulings calling for an end to attacks against the Palestinians, Israel continues its military offensive on the Gaza Strip and is moving farther away from any steps to end the human tragedy.

On Sunday, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority said that the Israeli army had approved a plan to launch a ground operation in Rafah.

Regional and international warnings are growing regarding the Israeli bombing of the city of Rafah with preparations being made for a ground invasion. This poses a threat to hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have taken refuge there as the last refuge in the far south of the Strip.

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