South Africa Calls on the International Court of Justice to Order a Ceasefire in Gaza and Stop Israel's Attack on Rafah - Latest Global News

South Africa Calls on the International Court of Justice to Order a Ceasefire in Gaza and Stop Israel’s Attack on Rafah

As Israel escalates its attack on the crowded southern city of Rafah, lawyers tell the court: “If Rafah falls, Gaza falls too.”

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Israel to stop its attack on Rafah as part of its trial accusing it of genocide against the Palestinians.

South Africa, which filed a lawsuit in January over Israel’s war on Gaza, is calling for additional emergency measures related to its offensive on Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip where more than a million displaced Palestinians had sought shelter from Israeli attacks on other parts of the Gaza Strip the enclave.

The court in The Hague was told on Thursday that the Palestinian people faced “prolonged annihilation” and that the attack on Rafah was “part of the end game in which Gaza will be completely destroyed.”

Israel is continuing its attacks in Rafah despite “explicit warnings” that they could have “genocidal” consequences, South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said.

Israel, which has rejected South Africa’s claim that it is violating the 1949 Genocide Convention as baseless, will respond on Friday.

Minutes before the trial began, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the widely criticized operation in Rafah “will continue as additional forces move into the area.”

Rafah is a tiny, crowded city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge in tents and face the rapid spread of disease and severe shortages of food and clean water. The only hospital in the area has closed, leaving only a small facility at capacity.

International Court of Justice judges have previously issued interim measures and ordered Israel to take measures to limit humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

Among those provisions was that Israel must ensure that basic food supplies immediately reach the Palestinians in Gaza, all of whom are suffering from severe hunger – some are even at risk of famine – as a result of Israel’s total siege.

This month, the Israeli army seized and closed the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, a key entry point for humanitarian aid. Aid groups have warned that the closure has significantly disrupted their operations.

As Gaza’s main humanitarian hub, “when Rafah falls, Gaza falls too,” South Africa said in a written submission to the court.

“The prevention of humanitarian assistance cannot be viewed as anything other than the deliberate annihilation of Palestinian lives. Famine to the point of starvation,” said lawyer Adila Hassim.

“Wipe Gaza off the map”

South Africa also asked the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, to order Israel to end its military operations in the Gaza Strip and immediately withdraw from the entire territory.

It called on the International Court of Justice to order Israel to allow UN officials, aid agencies, journalists and investigators unhindered access to the Gaza Strip. It added that Israel had so far ignored and violated previous court orders.

It also asked the court to ensure that Israel reports on its actions to comply with the orders.

“The crucial point today is that Israel’s stated goal of wiping Gaza from the map will soon be realized,” South Africa’s legal representative Vaughan Lowe told the judges.

“Furthermore, evidence of horrific crimes and atrocities is literally being destroyed and bulldozed, effectively clearing the guilt of those who committed these crimes and making a mockery of justice,” he said.

Another lawyer for South Africa, Max du Plessis, said Israel’s declared safe zones were a “cruel distortion” because people were often too starving to flee. Those strong enough to go to shelters were sometimes attacked by Israeli forces, he said.

“There is nothing humanitarian about these humanitarian zones,” he said. “Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians continues through military attacks and man-made famine.”

According to UN figures, around half a million Palestinians have been displaced in recent days as a result of Israeli ground and air strikes in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian health authorities, at least 35,000 people were killed in Israel’s attack in Gaza.

The hearings on Thursday and Friday will focus solely on the issuance of emergency measures. It will likely take years for the court to decide the merits of the genocide case.

The judgments and orders of the International Court of Justice are binding and cannot be appealed. Even if the court has no ability to enforce it, an order against a country could damage its international reputation and set legal precedents.

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