The International Court of Justice on Friday rejected South Africa’s request for further implementation of interim measures by Israel to mitigate further harm to civilians amidst Israel’s military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The court emphasised that Israel is still obligated to adhere to the court’s directives issued on 26 January, which require the protection and well-being of Palestinians during its ongoing deadly offensive in Rafah.

By Staff Reporter

In a ruling on Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) denied South Africa’s plea for additional interim measures to be enforced by Israel to protect civilians in Rafah from further harm during the ongoing military operation.

The South African government sent a letter to the ICJ on 12 February, requesting additional provisional measures from the court.

South Africa stated that additional measures were required due to Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on 9 February that Israel planned to evacuate the civilians of Rafah to enable the Israeli military to eliminate the four remaining Hamas battalions in the area. South Africa also stated that Israel launched a severe and unprecedented assault on Sunday, 11 February, with a continued threat of further escalation, possibly including a ground invasion.

However, the court concurred that the latest events and the impending Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, specifically in Rafah, would significantly worsen the existing humanitarian crisis with potentially severe regional implications, as articulated by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“This perilous situation 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 court said.

“The Court emphasises that the State of 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.”

South Africa’s submission to the ICJ on February 12 highlighted that Rafah, a community typically accommodating 280,000 Palestinians, was presently hosting over half of Gaza’s population, which is estimated to be around 1.4 million people, with roughly half of them being children.

“As the International Committee of the Red Cross has made clear, there is “no option” for the evacuation of the Palestinian population in Rafah as “there is nowhere else for the people to go” it stated.

South Africa expressed deep concern regarding the unprecedented military operation in Rafah launched by Israel, noting that this has “led to and will result in further large-scale killings, harm and destruction in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court’s Order of 26 January 2024.”

Despite the rejection of its recent petition, South Africa welcomed the ruling by the ICJ. It reaffirmed its position that the pressing conditions in Gaza warranted the swift and effective implementation of the emergency measures prescribed by the court in its judgment on 26 January.

A statement released by President Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said: “The court has unequivocally explained that compliance with the existing provisional measures requires Israel to ensure the safety and security of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“Any decision by Israel to engage in military activities against Palestinians in the current circumstances is a violation of the order of the International Court of Justice.”

“South Africa will continue to use existing channels such as the United Nations Security Council to ensure full and effective implementation of the existing provisional measures.”

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