ICJ hears South Africa's calls to stop Israel Rafah offensive

Israel ICJ hears South Africa's calls to stop Israel Rafah offensive

South Africa will ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday to order an immediate halt to Israel's incursion in Rafah, describing it as a "genocidal" operation threatening the "very survival of Palestinians".

Top lawyers for Pretoria will kick off two days of hearings at the Peace Palace, home of the ICJ, imploring judges to order a ceasefire throughout Gaza.

Israel is to respond on Friday yet has previously described its "unwavering" commitment to upholding international law while calling South Africa's case "wholly unfounded" and "morally repugnant".

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

But the court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire and now South Africa's argues that the situation on the ground – notably the Rafah operation – requires fresh ICJ action.

"As the overwhelming evidence demonstrates, the very manner in which Israel is pursuing its military operations in Rafah, and elsewhere in Gaza, is itself genocidal," South Africa said in its submission.

"It must be ordered to stop."

'Last refuge' in Gaza

South Africa is asking the ICJ for three emergency orders while it rules on the wider accusation that Israel is breaking the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

First, it wants the court to order Israel to "immediately withdraw and cease its military offensive" in Rafah.

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

Lastly, Pretoria asked the court to ensure Israel reports back on its measures taken to adhere to the orders.

The United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said on Wednesday that 600,000 people have fled Rafah since military operations intensified, amid battles and heavy Israeli bombardment in the area.

"As the primary humanitarian hub for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, if Rafah falls, so too does Gaza," said South Africa in its submission.

"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," the document added.

Pretoria stressed its view that the only way for the existing court orders to be implemented was a "permanent ceasefire in Gaza".

(with AFP)