‘Israel must be stopped,’ South Africa pleads with UN’s top court

‘Israel must be stopped,’ South Africa pleads with UN’s top court

THE HAGUE: South Africa has urged the top UN court to order a halt to the Rafah invasion as part of its case in The Hague accusing Israel of genocide, saying the country “must be stopped” to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

Thursday’s start of the two-day hearings at the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, came after South Africa last week asked for additional emergency measures to protect Gaza’s Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have been sheltering.

It also asked on Tuesday that the court order Israel to allow unimpeded access to Gaza for UN officials, organisations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators. It added that Israel has so far ignored and violated earlier court orders.

Israel’s military onslaught has targeted tens of thousands of children and women, destroyed civilian infrastructure and starved the population, said Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, attorney for South Africa.

“From the onset Israel’s intent was always to destroy Palestinian life and to wipe them off the face of the earth. Rafah is the final stand,” he said.

“Israel must be stopped. South Africa is before you again today to respectfully ask the court to invoke its powers. ..to order a remedy that will stop Israel,” said Adila Hassim, another lawyer for South Africa.

Israel, which has denounced South Africa’s claim that it is violating the 1949 Genocide Convention as baseless, will respond on Friday. In previous filings it stressed it had stepped up efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza as the ICJ had ordered.

‘Man-made starvation’

South Africa’s attorney Max du Plessis said Israel’s declared safe zones were a “cruel distortion” because people were often too starved to flee. Those strong enough to leave to shelters were sometimes attacked by Israeli forces.

“There is nothing humanitarian about these humanitarian zones,” he said. “Israel’s genocide of Palestinians continues through military attacks and man-made starvation.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations told Army Radio on Wednesday the short notice the court gave for the hearings did not allow sufficient legal preparation, adding that was “a telling sign”.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed nearly 35,000 people in the besieged enclave, according to health authorities there. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel and 253 taken hostage on October 7 when Hamas launched the attack that started the war, according to Israeli tallies.

South Africa accuses Israel of acts of genocide against Palestinians. In January, the court ordered Israel to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza, allow in more humanitarian aid and preserve any evidence of violations.

The hearings on May 16 and 17 will only focus on issuing emergency measures, to keep the dispute from escalating. It will likely take years before the court can rule on the merits of the case.

The ICJ’s rulings and orders are binding and without appeal. While the court has no way to enforce them, an order against a country could hurt its international reputation and set legal precedent.

Courtesy: TRTWorld and agencies