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An International Court of Justice hearing Alamy Stock Photo

ICJ rejects South Africa's request to put more legal pressure on Israel over Gaza

The Court has already issued emergency orders against Israel.


THE UN’s TOP court has rejected South Africa’s request to put more legal pressure on Israel to halt a threatened offensive against the Gaza city of Rafah, saying it was “bound to comply” with existing measures.

The International Court of Justice said in a statement that the “perilous situation” in Rafah “demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the Court in its Order of 26 January 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures”.

The world court added that Israel “remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and with the said Order, including by ensuring the safety and security of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.

The request from South Africa was made on Monday in the context of the country’s genocide case against Israel at the UN court.

South Africa alleges that Israel is in violation of the Genocide Convention in multiple ways through its military campaign in Gaza.

The Court has already issued emergency orders against Israel – known as provisional measures – but this week South Africa’s lawyers had argued that more were needed after “a significant development” in the conflict, namely the planned invasion and “evacuation”of the southern Gazan city of Rafah, the last refuge for about 1.5 million displaced people. 

The South African request cited a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which said he had ordered the Israeli military “to submit to the Cabinet a combined plan for evacuating the population and destroying the (Hamas) battalions”.

Given the dire situation faced by people in Rafah, who have been forced to flee areas further north due to the Israeli invasion, South Africa asked the Court to reassess the situation. 

Israel’s response

Israel, however, responded yesterday by asking the Court to reject the South African request, arguing that the situation in Gaza has not changed since it issued provisional orders three weeks ago. 

It argued that since the invasion of Rafah has not happened yet, the situation in the conflict cannot be said to have changed. 

The Israeli legal team also argued that the request was “highly peculiar and improper” based on a technical reading of the article cited by South Africa, calling the invocation of Article 75 (1) “inapplicable”. 

The Israeli response also reiterated its opinion of the broader genocide case against it, calling it “repugnant” and describing it as an abuse of the ICJ and the Genocide Convention.

Israel is due to submit a report to the ICJ next week to update the judges on how it has acted since the provisional measures were ordered.  

With reporting by David MacRedmond and © AFP 2024

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