South Africa Urges ICJ to Halt Israeli Assault on Rafah

On Thursday, South African representatives urged the World Court to see that Israel has not followed its order to prevent genocidal acts by its military forces.

Israeli tanks on Gaza side of Rafah crossing, May 7, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

South African officials on Thursday made their case before the International Court of Justice to stop Israel’s brutal invasion of Rafah, warning once again that Israeli officials have displayed clear “genocidal intent” and “genocidal conduct” in their military campaign in Gaza.

The case for the ICJ to stop the attack on Rafah was made by a number of lawyers, legal experts, and ambassadors, with the South African representatives outlining the bare facts of Israel’s military campaign, blocking of humanitarian aid and statements of intent, just as they did when the court heard South Africa’s original claim that Israel is committing genocide.

That case, argued in January, resulted in a preliminary ruling in which the court said South Africa had made a “plausible” case and ordered Israel to prevent genocidal acts by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

On Thursday, South Africa urged the ICJ to see that Israel has not followed that order.

“It is difficult to imagine that the situation could get worse” than it was in January, international law professor John Dugard told the court. He said:

“But unfortunately, it has… Israel has now commenced its long-threatened assault on Rafah. It has ordered the evacuation of Palestinians in Rafah to the barren sand dunes of Al-Mawasi. It has closed critical border crossings to humanitarian aid, medical supplies, goods, and fuel, upon which the population depends.”

“Israel’s actions are in violation of fundamental international humanitarian law, but in addition, they provide evidence of the crime of genocide,” Dugard continued. “This attack is the final blow that is intended to destroy the Palestinian group in Gaza.”

Watch the livestream of the ICJ hearing below:

 Full transcript of Thursday’s hearing.

The South Africans made their case as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said Thursday that an estimated 600,000 people have now been forcibly displaced from Rafah by Israel.

Despite tepid warnings from the U.S. — the biggest international funder of the IDF — for Israel to avoid attacking “population centers,” the IDF this week has moved into dense residential neighborhoods in central Rafah. 

The U.S. has also called for Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the IDF’s seizure of the Rafah crossing between the enclave and Egypt last week led the World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday to warn that food and fuel rations “will run out in a matter of days.” Dozens of Palestinians have been starved to death so far by Israel’s blocking of relief shipments.

“The threat of famine in Gaza never loomed larger,” said the WFP as South Africa made its case in The Hague.

Three months after giving a 22-minute speech detailing the numerous statements of genocidal intent made by top Israeli officials since the Gaza assault began in October, South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi during Thursday’s hearing, used the more recent words of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who publicly described the aim of the Rafah invasion as “total annihilation.”

In his presentation before the court, Ngcukaitobi invoked Smotrich’s language by arguing that the Rafah incursion “is the last stage of ‘total annihilation’ of Palestinian life.”

“For Palestinians to be able to continue to exist as a protected group under the Genocide Convention, they need a place from which to rebuild,” he continued. “Rafah is that place, the last stand… Without Rafah, the possibility to rebuild will be lost forever.”

In her speech, Irish lawyer Blinne Ni Ghralaigh outlined other developments in Gaza since the ICJ issued its preliminary ruling that illustrate the need for the court’s “invaluable intervention.”

Ni Ghralaigh detailed the destruction of hospitals like Al-Shifa, where mass graves have been found with the remains of women, children, and medical workers, and warned that “the same fate now awaits Rafah’s remaining hospitals, doctors, and medics.”

She also pointed to evidence that the IDF is treating evacuated areas as “extermination zones,” where soldiers are ordered to kill any remaining people, and its use of an error-prone AI system to target Palestinians. 

The South African legal team said the court must order Israel “to immediately take all effective measures to ensure the access of persons able to investigate ongoing atrocities,” and called on the ICJ to “at least modify its provisional measures” from March, when it demanded that Israel allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

“The court has the power to modify or make an explicit order for Israel to cease its military operations in Rafah, Gaza, and to withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” said Ni Ghralaigh, pointing out that the provisional measure from March could only take full effect if a cease-fire agreement was reached. 

“No such resolution is in place. The court must itself, therefore, create the circumstances necessary for its provisional measures to take full effect. It must order Israel to cease its military operations system finally,” she said. “Enough is enough.”

Israel is expected to address the ICJ at a second day of hearings on Friday. 

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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18 comments for “South Africa Urges ICJ to Halt Israeli Assault on Rafah

  1. Abu Lincoln
    May 17, 2024 at 13:04

    To the various American officials making threats against the international courts, and in response to their shock that such a court might actually indict exceptional Americans.

    “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    May 17, 2024 at 11:07

    Certainly well intended on the part of South Africa…but seeing how israel shamelessly continues to give the civilized world ‘the finger’…

  3. Michael McNulty
    May 17, 2024 at 10:03

    We have a country which remembers its own apartheid trying to stop mass murder being committed by a people who forgot their own genocide. Israel’s behaviour will bring about its own end because its people will leave in another Jewish diaspora. They’ll not recover from the hate they’ve spoken, their cruel acts of preventing food and other aid reaching a starving people, and nor can they say it was taken out of context. Unlike the previous 3–4,000 years, this time it’s being captured on footage to become part of the historical record.

    They got a place of their own then they blew it.

  4. Nathan Mulcahy
    May 17, 2024 at 08:04

    Trump, Biden and RFKJr – all three are unconditional supporters of the Zionist expansionist policy of Israel in Palestine. This policy is the root cause of the ongoing genocide Palestine.

    I have repeatedly written to my three “representatives“ – all three from the Fem Party asking them to oppose our complicity in this genocide. Not surprisingly, they continue to disappoint with their complicity.

    In contrast, Jill Stein is opposed to what Israel doing is in Palestine.

    Prof. Jeffry Sachs endorsed Jill Stein

    • Abu Lincoln
      May 17, 2024 at 13:19

      Don’t forget to add Bernie and a lot of the Progressives to that list. Bernie was and has always been a strong supporter of Israel. And Bowman and a lot of the progressives are the same. They are millionaires or upper middle class so their expensive cars naturally steer towards the money.

      Safe States Stein will remove herself from view in a few months. It would be nice if I was wrong, but, Stein has a track record of appearing to be a left alternative, before completely disappearing from view from the infomercial conventions until the computers announce the next ruler. Poof, she’s gone, to be safe, so as not to take any of the votes that belong to the Democrats away from their corporate owners.

      I’d like it if I was wrong this time, but this has been the course of the Green subsidiary of the Democratic Party ever since they made Nader run as an (I) in 2004 to run their first Green Safe States campaign. That Stein is yet again the nominee, and that there has been no obvious revolt within the Green Party by a faction committed to real politics instead of the fake, and since there has been no declaration of a radical change of strategy away from the Safe State Greens, one has to assume that this is the same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

      History says that Stein will disappear at the time of the infomercial conventions, and only re-emerge to collect buckets of Democrat money by running the Democrat recount campaigns and leading the inevitable Biden “Stop the Steal” chants.

    • anaisanesse
      May 18, 2024 at 01:28

      Jill Stein can be heard in a new interview with Nima on Dialogue Works, together with Michael Hudson. Inspiring and urgent!

  5. Lois Gagnon
    May 16, 2024 at 21:48

    If the ICJ does not act to force Israel to stop the genocide now and allow in aid, it may as well be abolished as it is a useless entity.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      May 17, 2024 at 11:09

      The culprits are ISRAEL AND THE US!!! plus the entire Anglo/Saxon white world that continues to look the other way…intimidated by the murderous Zionists.

    • Riva Enteen
      May 17, 2024 at 12:20

      Useless entity is too benign. By doing nothing to stop the slaughter, the UN is a collaborator in the genocide.
      The longer we hold onto the vile anachronism of the UN, the longer injustice will continue. A new international mechanism must be developed. BRICS+ is a great step forward.

      Written for Ukraine, but even more true for Palestine:

    • Abu Lincoln
      May 17, 2024 at 13:34

      League of Nations 1.0 failed, and World War II resulted from its failure. League of Nations 2.0 is gasping its last dying death rattles into our ears, and the world appears to be in the brink of world war 3.

      The method by which they failed is different. In 1.0, the fascists simply withdrew from the league and ignored it. In 2.0, ever since the IAEA embarrassed Bush/Cheney over the Big Lie that Saddam has nukes, they have instead made sure to take over the league and thus be certain that it is incapable of acting in the antifa manner that was the spirit in which it was formed.

      If humanity survives, ideas for League of Nations 3.0 will be welcome. Seems a like a key addition would have to be a requirement that members actually follow the rules. Although, to be honest, I like John Lennon’s solution better, “Imagine there’s no countries.” A human society where all humans are citizens of this society, and nations become this quaint old idea that people used to fight over before we grew up. “I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world be as one” – Lennon and Ono.

  6. Capt Kangaroo
    May 16, 2024 at 18:58

    The first hearing was, apparently, on Dec 29, 2023. I can’t find a page that list Gaza casualties by date, so the exact number dead on that date is hard(er) to determine. Our sensationalist media does list Dec 20, 2023 as the answer to the trivia question of when deaths passed 20,000. In the same line, the media tells us that the death toll passed 25,000 on Jan 21, 2023. So, between 20,000 and 25,000 people had died when this case began. A straightline interpolation yields a number around 21500.

    Today, the number stands at 35,272.

    35272-21500=13772. So, approximately 14,000 human souls have perished while the world pursues the apparently pointless task of asking a bunch of kangaroos in wigs to please stop the genocide.

    Both Israel and the US have already denounced the Hague courts and promised defiance of any rulings, should the kangaroos ever decide to put pen to paper. America has its Hague Invasion Act (Sen Biden was one of 72 yes votes), and a group of senators just sent the Hague courts a very threatening letter that said literally “if you go after Israel, we go after you.” They also threatened ‘sanctions’ on the judges, and there is even a small chance that in the midst of this threatening letter they meant economic sanctions and not the more traditional meaning of ‘sanctioning’ someone, Thus, if by some miracle the kangaroos do decide to decisively rule to stop the genocide after avoiding that for months, there is not a snowballs chance in heck that either Israel or America obeys the rules of the Rules Based Order.

    And yet, the world continues with this farce that somehow appealing to this bunch of kangaroos in wigs will somehow, someday, stop the still ongoing genocide. While human souls in Gaza keep living through horrible days, and keep dying from an ongoing genocide. Note down the number 35772 on May 16, and refer to it in the next inevitable story about an appeal to this court.

  7. robert e williamson jr
    May 16, 2024 at 18:39

    Far too much has been “said” already. The actual problem is that almost nothing has been done by entities who are able to stifle the Israeli butchery.

    I’m damned sick and tired of the democrats and their leadership doing nothing to stop this madness.

    Joe Biden needs to wake the hell up! Biden’s lack of concrete actions t0 intervene in a meaningful manner will result in him losing this up coming election. Biden might have beaten trump once but there are no guaranteed results in U.S. elections any longer, if there ever were.

    Brothers and sisters you think we have problems now, just wait!

    Notinyawho needs to be jailed and tried for crimes against humanity IMHO. I’m embarrassed by Joey lack of rage with Bibi and his henchman. His father must be so disappointed. So far, I have noticed the only adults in the room seem to be the Iranians. Joe must tell “Benny the blade” to cut the bull shit.

    Now I’m going to contact my U.S. Senator.

    Thanks CN

  8. Jeff Harrison
    May 16, 2024 at 18:30

    Unfortunately, the Zionists of Israel will simply lie.

    • Tom Hall
      May 18, 2024 at 04:06

      When the Israeli advocate completed her litany of falsehoods, a woman’s voice cried out from the gallery, “Liar!” The Zionist turned her head to locate the disruptor, and the livestream screen went silent and blank. Order was swiftly restored, however, and that lone objector was neither seen nor heard again. Decorum prevails, amidst the genocide.

  9. bardamu
    May 16, 2024 at 16:30

    Empire is an engine of extraction; extraction eventually depends on extermination.

    The lion lays down with the lamb, but not everyone gets up. And the lion needs another meal tomorrow; beyond that, all alliances must be relative.

    The overlap of the group of imperial countries and colonies populated by their invaders and the group approving of Israel’s extermination of occupied Palestinians is not quite complete, but it is extensive.

  10. anaisanesse
    May 16, 2024 at 15:47

    what can anyone say?

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      May 17, 2024 at 08:06

      Our government, and therefore we, are complicit in this genocide.

      • Vera Gottlieb
        May 17, 2024 at 11:10

        The entire white Anglo/Saxon world is complicit.

Comments are closed.