update deskIsrael at War

ICJ kicks off hearings on Israel’s Rafah offensive

South Africa is again asking The Hague to order Jerusalem to halt its attack.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday is taking up a request by South Africa to press Israel to halt its military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza, where IDF ground forces have been active since May 6.

Judges at the U.N.’s top court will listen to arguments over the next two days on Pretoria’s fourth petition to the ICJ since the Hamas-led invasion of Israel of Oct. 7.

In its latest request, South Africa said that the court’s previous measures “are not capable of fully address[ing] the changed circumstances and new facts on which [its] Request is founded.”

It said Israel’s attack on Rafah poses “extreme risk” to humanitarian services and supplies, the Gaza medical system and the survival of Arabs in Gaza, and causes “irreparable harm to the rights” of Gazans, according to a press release on the ICJ website.

Pretoria is asking the court to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah; take measures to ensure U.N. officials, humanitarian organizations and journalists have full access to Gaza; and report back within one week on how it is meeting those demands.

Israel has been carrying out limited operations in the city of Rafah, located in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip and the last bastion of Hamas’s remaining battalions. Jerusalem maintains that conquering Rafah is essential to defeating Hamas, which has vowed multiple repeats of the Oct. 7 massacre.

Egypt on Sunday announced it would formally support South Africa’s suit. Cairo has opposed Israel’s seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing to Sinai.

Pretoria brought its first request on Dec. 29, accusing Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention. But on Jan. 26, the court rejected South Africa’s request that it order a ceasefire.

South Africa then returned to the ICJ on March 6 with a new filing, claiming that it was compelled to do so “in light of the new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza—particularly the situation of widespread starvation.”

On March 28, the ICJ did approve additional measures against Israel, ordering that it ensure that Arabs in the Strip be given access to additional food, clothing, sanitation and medical assistance. The ICJ also demanded Israel increase the number of land crossing points into the Gaza Strip for supplies.

Recently, Libya, Egypt and Turkey announced they were joining the South Africa “genocide” lawsuit at The Hague.

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