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South Africa asks World Court to order Israel withdrawal from Rafah

May 10, 2024 at 8:42 pm

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrike on east of Rafah, Gaza as Palestinians leave their homes on May 07, 2024. [Ahmed Majed – Anadolu Agency]

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, Reuters reports.

Israel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law in Gaza, and 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.

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

READ: US weapons shipments to Israel ‘breach legal limits’ say high-level US officials

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

The war has killed nearly 35,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel and 253 taken hostage on 7 October when Hamas launched the attack that started the war, according to Israeli tallies.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

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

READ: South Africa urges ICC prosecutor to expedite probe into war crimes in Gaza