S Africa tells UN court Israel ‘genocide’ hit ‘new and horrific stage’


THE HAGUE: South Africa accused Israel Thursday at the top U.N. court of stepping up what it called a “genocide” in Gaza, urging the court to order a halt to Israel’s assault on Rafah.

“South Africa had hoped, when we last appeared before this court, to halt this genocidal process to preserve Palestine and its people,” Vusimuzi Madonsela told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Instead, Israel’s genocide has continued apace and has just reached a new and horrific stage,” he added.

South Africa was kicking off two days of hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague, home of the ICJ, imploring judges to order a ceasefire throughout Gaza.

Israel will respond on Friday. It has previously highlighted its “unwavering” commitment to upholding international law and described South Africa’s case as “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 South Africa’s argument is that the situation on the ground — notably the operation in the crowded city of Rafah — 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.”

The orders of the ICJ, which rules in disputes between states, are legally binding but it has little means to enforce them.

It has ordered Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine, to no avail.

South Africa is asking the ICJ for three emergency orders — “provisional measures” in court jargon — while it rules on the wider accusation that Israel is breaking the 1948 U.N. 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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Rafah offensive in defiance of U.S. warnings that more than a million civilians sheltering there could be caught in the crossfire.

‘Last refuge’

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”.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza were launched in retaliation for Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli figures.

Israel’s military has conducted a relentless bombardment from the air and a ground offensive inside Gaza that has killed at least 35,233 people, mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.__Daily Hurriyet