UN’s Top Court to Hold Hearings Against Israel’s Rafah Offensive This Week

Tue May 14 2024
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THE HAGUE: The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ principal judicial organ, said it would hold hearings on Thursday and Friday over South Africa’s request to impose emergency orders on Israel to halt its Rafah offensive.

In a statement released by the ICJ in The Hague, it said that lawyers from South Africa will present their case on Thursday, followed by Israel’s response on the subsequent day.

South Africa initiated the legal proceedings earlier this month, seeking provisional measures from the ICJ to intervene in Israel’s military operations in Rafah. The petition urged the court to compel Israel to immediately cease its offensive actions and withdraw its forces from the region. Additionally, South Africa urged the court to mandate Israel to facilitate unimpeded access for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The recent incursion into Rafah has led to the displacement of nearly 450,000 Palestinians, with another 100,000 displaced from northern Gaza, as reported by UN agencies. Ground attacks and heavy bombardments have been reported not only in Rafah but also in other areas of Gaza, raising concerns about the safety and well-being of civilians in the region.

Various international actors, including the United States, have voiced apprehensions about the potential catastrophic consequences of a full-scale assault on Rafah, particularly for the thousands of refugees who have sought shelter there amid the ongoing conflict.

Israel faces allegations of violating international humanitarian law. The ICJ’s ruling in mid-January underscored Israel’s obligation to prevent genocide during military operations in Gaza and to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into the territory.

South Africa’s contention is that Israel’s actions in Rafah constitute a breach of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. The ICJ previously denied a similar request from South Africa over Israel’s threat to attack Rafah but has agreed to review the situation in light of the recent developments.

“In attacking Rafah, Israel is attacking the ‘last refuge’ in Gaza, and the only remaining area of the Strip which has not yet been substantially destroyed by Israel,” asserted South Africa in its submission to the court, highlighting the gravity of the situation. “With Rafah’s destruction, the destruction of Gaza itself will be complete,” it added.

While the ICJ’s rulings carry legal weight, enforcement mechanisms are limited. Despite previous orders, such as directing Russia to cease its invasion of Ukraine, compliance remains a challenge for the court.

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