Top UN Court Hears S. Africa Plea to Stop Israel Rafah Offensive Today

Thu May 16 2024
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands: South Africa will ask the UN’s top court today (Thursday) to order an immediate halt to Israel’s invasion of Rafah, calling it a “genocidal” operation threatening the very survival of Palestinians.

Pretoria’s top lawyers will begin two days of hearings at the Peace Palace, home of the International Court of Justice, asking judges to order a Gaza-wide ceasefire.

Israel will respond on Friday. Israel has previously stressed its “unwavering” commitment to upholding international law, calling South Africa’s case “completely baseless” and “morally repugnant”.

In a decision that made headlines around the world, the ICJ in January ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent genocidal acts and allow humanitarian aid to Gaza.

However, the court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire, and South Africa’s argument is that the situation on the ground – particularly the Rafah operation – warrants fresh intervention by the ICJ.

As overwhelming evidence shows, the very manner in which Israel conducts its military operations in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza is itself genocidal, South Africa said in a statement.

“It must be ordered to stop.”

The orders of the International Court of Justice, which rules on disputes between states, are legally binding, but it has few means of enforcing them.

Top UN Court Hears S. Africa Plea to Stop Israel Rafah Offensive Today

The court ordered Russia to stop invading Ukraine, but to no avail.

South Africa is asking the ICJ for three emergency orders – “provisional measures” in court jargon – while it rules on a broader charge that Israel is in violation of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

First, it wants the court to order Israel to “immediately withdraw and stop the military offensive” in Rafah.

Second, Israel should take “all effective measures” to allow aid workers as well as journalists and investigators “unimpeded access” to Gaza.

Finally, Pretoria asked the court to ensure that Israel reports on its measures taken to comply with the orders.

The UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said on Wednesday that 600,000 people have fled Rafah since military operations intensified, amid fighting and heavy Israeli bombardment in the area.

As the primary humanitarian hub for humanitarian aid in Gaza, if Rafah falls, Gaza falls, South Africa said in it submission to the court.

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“By attacking Rafah, Israel is attacking the ‘last refuge’ in Gaza and the only remaining area of ​​the Strip that Israel has not yet essentially destroyed,” the document added.

Pretoria emphasized its view that the only way to implement the existing court orders was through a “permanent ceasefire in Gaza”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel cannot defeat Hamas without sending ground troops to Rafah to search for remaining fighters.

But Israel’s main allies, the United States and the EU, as well as the United Nations, have all warned against a major Rafah operation because it would increase the civilian toll.

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