South Africa reported this Tuesday that it has “urgently” requested the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to examine Israel’s decision to expand its military operations in Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, to prevent “new violations” of the rights of the Palestinian people.
“The South African Government has urgently asked the ICJ to assess whether Israel’s announced decision to expand its military operations in Rafah, the last refuge for Gaza survivors, requires the court to use its power to prevent further imminent violations of human rights. rights of the Palestinians,” reports the South African presidency in a statement.
The South African authorities explain that, according to the ICJ rules, the court can “at any time” assess whether the circumstances of a case “require the indication of provisional measures that must be adopted or complied with by some or all of the parties.”
In its request, made this Monday, the South African Government is “deeply concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, announced by the State of Israel, has already caused, and will result in more large-scale attacks, killings, damage and destruction,” the statement adds.
South Africa notes that this “would constitute a serious and irreparable violation of both the Genocide Convention and the ICJ order of 26 January 2024.” The city of Rafah is home to the majority of the almost two million people displaced by the war.
That day, the ICJ demanded that Israel “take all measures at its disposal to prevent the commission of genocide” and “adopt immediate and effective measures” to allow access for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, after South Africa sued that country on December 29 for alleged crimes of genocide during the war unleashed after the Hamas attack that caused 1,200 deaths in Israeli territory and took at least 240 people hostage.
Since then, and despite growing international opposition, Israeli forces have counterattacked by air, land and sea in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 28,470 people, including thousands of children, according to Gazan health authorities.
In its ruling last January, however, the court avoided explicitly calling for a “ceasefire” as a precautionary measure.
The South African government has historically been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and the ruling party, the African National Congress, has often linked that cause to its own fight against the segregationist regime of ‘apartheid’ (1948-1994).