SA goes to ICJ again in bid to block Israeli assault on Rafah

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, take shelter in a tent camp in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday (PHOTO: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters/Haaeretz)

South Africa returned to the International Court of Justice on Tuesday with an urgent request that the court consider whether Israel’s plan to extend its military operations in Gaza to the southernmost city of Rafah requires additional emergency measures to protect Palestinians.

Last month, in a case in which SA accused Israel of genocide, the ICJ rejected SA’s request for an outright ceasefire order but ordered Israel to take all measures possible to prevent its troops from committing genocide against Gaza.

SA’s latest appeal to the ICJ comes as the IDF is preparing to attack four Hamas battalions in the city, where it believes more than 100 Israeli hostages are held and senior Hamas leaders are present.

“The South African Government has made an urgent request to the International Court of Justice to consider whether the decision announced by Israel to extend its military operations in Rafah, which is the last refuge for surviving people in Gaza, requires that the court uses its power to prevent further imminent breach of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza,” the office of the SA Presidency said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement said that SA was concerned that “an Israeli military offensive against Rafah… has already led to and will result in further large scale killing, harm and destruction,” which it said would constitute “serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention” and the ICJ’s orders issued against Israel last month.

The ICJ has acknowledged receipt of SA’s request but has not commented further on proceedings.

Israel, which last month rejected SA’s lawsuit as baseless, says SA’s return to the ICJ this week is an attempt to stop Israel from defending itself. Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza is in response to a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, in which 1 200 Israelis were murdered and 254 were taken hostage. Hamas, which does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, says it will keep on repeating such attacks.

“Israel is committed to upholding international law, including facilitating the transfer of humanitarian aid and preventing harm to innocents, while the Hamas terrorists are hiding behind the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and are holding 134 people hostage,” Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat writes on X.

Speaking in the SA Parliament yesterday, ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe said that the government would not improve the situation between Israel and the Palestinians by taking Israel to the ICJ. “Government’s cosy relationship with Hamas leadership, who still refuses to recognise the State of Israel, is just going to exacerbate an already volatile situation, and hasten the demise of the ANC,” he said.

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