JOHANNESBURG: South Africa urged the United Nations’ top court today to place more legal pressure on Israel to halt a threatened offensive against the densely crowded Gaza city of Rafah.
Pretoria has already made a complaint against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, alleging that its assault on Gaza amounts to a breach of the Genocide Convention.
The court has yet to rule on the underlying issue, but on Jan 26 it ordered Israel to ensure in the interim that it takes action to protect Palestinian civilians from further harm and to allow in humanitarian aid.
Israel’s campaign has continued, however, and its forces are preparing an operation against Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have sought shelter from the bombardment.
For South Africa, this is enough to ask the ICJ to revisit its provisional measures and issue a sterner order.
It said it was “gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large scale killing, harm, and destruction.”
“This would be in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court’s Order of 26 January 2024,” the South African presidency argued.
“South Africa trusts this matter will receive the necessary urgency in light of the daily death toll in Gaza.”
The court has not confirmed receiving South Africa’s request, and it is not obliged to consider it.
Israel – in response to the bloodiest attack in its history carried out by Hamas fighters on Oct 7 – has reduced large parts of the Gaza Strip to rubble with its bombing campaign.
The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 28,473, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.