UPDATE - South Africa requests order to end Israeli operation in Gaza at ICJ case

UPDATE - South Africa requests order to end Israeli operation in Gaza at ICJ case

Israel 'willfully breaching' binding orders of this court, says country delegation as it presses for more provisional measures against Israel over Gaza

UPDATES WITH FURTHER REMARKS BY LAWYERS; CHANGES HEAD, REVISES THROUGHOUT

By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Burak Bir

GENEVA / LONDON (AA) - South Africa on Thursday requested an order to end Israel's Gaza offensive at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the country seeks additional provisional measures against Israel.

After the two-day hearing in The Hague began earlier in the day, the South African delegation pointed to "willful breaches" by Israel against the court's binding orders. The delegation said South Africa was compelled to return to the court due to the "continuing annihilation of the Palestinian people."

Stressing that Israel has been escalating its attacks in Gaza, South Africa's Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusi Madonsela said Tel Aviv is "willfully breaching the binding orders of this court."

"Institutionalized impunity" has led Israel to engage in the ongoing "genocide," Lawyer Vaughan Lowe warned while adding: "South Africa is here because the Palestinian people are facing genocide in Gaza and your previous orders have not succeeded in protecting them against that."

"Whether because of a lack of clarity as to precisely what the orders require, or because Israel chooses to ignore them, they have not been effective," Lowe added.

He said the right of self-defense "does not give a state a license to use unlimited violence," nor can it "ever justify genocide."

Citing a 2004 ruling by the court, he said "There is no right of self-defense by an occupying state against the territory that it occupies."

"The key point today is that Israel's declared aim of wiping Gaza from the map is about to be realized," he added.

Israel's defiance of earlier ICJ rulings includes its ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah, putting at risk the safety and security of 1.5 million displaced Palestinians who have sheltered from Israel’s onslaught on the enclave, said lawyer Max Du Plessis, another member of the South African delegation.

Tel Aviv's use of evacuation orders and its designation of so-called humanitarian zones are "purely performative," he said, stressing that such orders "endanger rather than protect" civilian life.

Israel's closure of the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings into Rafah is "fatally impacting the so-desperately-needed" delivery of humanitarian aid, basic services, and medical assistance, he added.

Israel's actions in Rafah show its plan of "destruction of essential foundations of Palestinian life in Gaza," lawyer Adila Hassam said, warning: "We are in the final stages of that coordinated plan."

She also explained five features that show Israel's "genocidal campaign" that involves the killing of Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, at an "alarming rate."

As a result of Israel's onslaught, Palestinians in Gaza are facing the "worst humanitarian crisis" in over 50 years, she said.

Israel's "systematic" targeting and bombardment of hospitals and medical facilities and its "throttling" of humanitarian aid has pushed Gaza's medical system to collapse, continued Hassam, who added that mass graves uncovered at hospitals in Gaza were evidence of "Israeli massacres of Palestinians" seeking shelter and medical treatment.

Israel has intensified its attacks in the north, while pressing on with its Rafah offensive, leaving displaced Palestinians nowhere safe to go, she said.

Another lawyer on the South African team, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, said Rafah was the "last stage" of the total annihilation of Palestinian life.

According to fellow lawyer Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, the assault on Rafah is the "end game for Gaza," and Palestinians, unfolding under the world's watch.

"This may well be the last chance for the court to act to ensure their survival," she noted.

Concluding, Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, voiced the delegation's request for the court to order Israel to "cease military operations in the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and withdraw from the Rafah crossing and immediately, totally and unconditionally withdraw Israeli army from the entirety of the Gaza Strip."

Madonsela also urged the court to order Israel to ensure the unimpeded access of fact-finding missions, internationally mandated investigators, and journalists to document and preserve evidence on the ground.

He also requested an order for Israel to submit an open report to the court on all measures taken to give effect to these provisional measures within a week.

South Africa filed an “urgent request” last Friday with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for additional measures amid Israel’s attacks on Gaza, particularly in the city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are taking shelter.

“In its new request, South Africa states that the provisional measures previously indicated by the Court are not capable of ‘fully address[ing]’ the changed circumstances and new facts on which [its] Request is founded,” the ICJ said in a statement.

South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice in late 2023, accusing it of genocide in Gaza.

An interim ruling in January said it is "plausible" that Tel Aviv is committing genocide in the coastal enclave, and ordered Tel Aviv to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians.

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