Gaza war: South Africa seeks new emergency measures against Israel ICJ

Pro-Palestinian protesters confront the police at the encampment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 6, 2024. [AFP]

South Africa on Friday sought new emergency measures by the International Court of Justice against Israel over its latest offensive against the Gaza city of Rafah, the court said in a statement.

It is the third time since making a first application in December that South Africa has requested extra action against Israel over the Gaza war.

Israel has condemned South Africa's allegations that it has launched a "genocide" against the Palestinian territory.

South Africa's application said Israel's operation against Rafah poses an "extreme risk" to "humanitarian supplies and basic services into Gaza, to the survival of the Palestinian medical system, and to the very survival of Palestinians in Gaza as a group," the UN court said in a statement.

The application accused Israel of "continuing violations of the Genocide Convention".

South Africa said Israel has been "contemptuous" of international law and calls on the court to order Israel to "immediately withdraw and cease its military offensive" in Rafah.

It also demanded an order that Israel give "unimpeded access" to Gaza to the United Nations and other groups providing humanitarian aid.

Israel launched its war against Hamas after the Palestinian militants staged their unprecedented October 7 attacks across the border resulting in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized hostages, of whom Israel estimates 128 remain in Gaza, including 36 who the military says are dead.

Israel's blistering retaliatory offensive has left almost 35,000 dead, mainly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Rafah offensive was needed to complete the rout of Hamas.

Rafah is crammed with hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians living in dire conditions and there have been warnings that an Israeli ground offensive would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe for civilians.

In January the ICJ called on Israel to prevent acts of genocide following the original South African request for international action.

The court rejected a second South African application for emergency measures over Israel's threat to attack Rafah. South Africa made a new request in early March.

The UN court settles disputes between states. Its orders are binding but there is no enforcement mechanism. The court has already ordered Russia to halt its war against Ukraine.

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