ICJ to Hear Arguments from South Africa on Israel’s Actions in Gaza

ICJ to Hear Arguments from South Africa on Israel’s Actions in Gaza

The United Nations’ top court is scheduled to hear arguments from South Africa on Thursday afternoon after the country recently requested that the court issue further constraints on Israel, saying “the very survival” of Palestinians in Gaza was under threat.

In filings disclosed by the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week, South Africa cited the “irreparable harm” posed by Israel’s incursion into Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza where half of the population has sought refuge. The filings said the rights of Palestinians in Gaza were under threat, adding that Israel’s control over two major border crossings in southern Gaza put at extreme risk the flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and the ability for hospitals there to function.

South Africa is expected to ask the court to order Israel to immediately withdraw from Rafah, and to “cease its military offensive” and allow “unimpeded access” to international officials, investigators and journalists.

Israel has vehemently denied South Africa’s claims, repeating that it has placed no restrictions on the amount of aid entering the enclave. Israel has also said that its latest assault on eastern Rafah was a “precise operation” targeting only members of Hamas, the terrorist group that led the Oct. 7 attacks, which Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,200 Israelis and led to the capture of about 250 others.

Israel is expected to make its defense before the court on Friday. Gilad Noam, Israel’s deputy attorney general for international law, is among the officials in the Israeli delegation who are expected to address the court.

The hearings are part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide, which it filed in December. In late January, the I.C.J. ordered Israel to do more to prevent acts of genocide, but it stopped short of calling for a cease-fire. The main case, dealing with the accusation of genocide, is not expected to start until next year.

U.N. officials and experts say that Israel’s latest incursion into Rafah risks plunging Gaza into further devastation, as Israel briefly shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing and seized the Rafah crossing. No humanitarian aid entered Gaza the enclave for several days, and injured and ill Palestinians seeking medical care were restricted from leaving.

In its latest filing, South Africa argued that the court must add or update its restrictions on Israel given the changed circumstances in Rafah, where Israel had told Palestinians to seek shelter earlier on in the war. South Africa called Rafah “the last refuge” in Gaza that has not been substantially destroyed and said that the enclave’s remaining medical facilities are at extreme risk, noting the evidence of mass graves at two Gazan hospitals.

“Israel’s military assault and operation are killing the Palestinian people of Gaza, while Israel is simultaneously starving them, and deliberately denying them humanitarian aid and the basic necessities of life,” South Africa stated in its filing. “Those who have survived so are facing imminent death now, and an Order from the Court is needed to ensure their survival.”

Marlise Simons and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

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