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South Africa urges ICJ to halt Israel's 'genocidal' Rafah offensive

South African delegates warn Israel's attack on Gaza has reached a 'new and horrific stage'

South Africa has called for an end to Israel's "genocidal" war in Gaza and for its attack on the southern city of Rafah to be halted, in a new submission at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Speaking at the court in The Hague on Thursday, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, said that Israel's "genocide" in Gaza had "reached a new and horrific stage".

"South Africa had hoped, when we last appeared before this court, to halt this genocidal process to preserve Palestine and its people," Madonsela told the ICJ.

He noted, however, that the attack on the enclave had "continued apace".

Following the original application by South Africa last year, the ICJ ordered that Israel take all measures within its power to prevent genocide in Gaza, as well as allow aid to enter the enclave, along with a number of other measures.

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However, South Africa and many other analysts say Israel has failed to comply with the ICJ orders.

South African delegate Max du Plessis on Thursday told the ICJ that instead of complying with the orders it issued in January, Israel had defied the court by "trapping, besieging and bombarding overcrowded Rafah".

He added that Israel's current offensive on the city, where more than a million Palestinians have sought refuge, is the "deadliest phase of this ongoing genocide".

Du Plessis said the court's initial orders were made because the right of existence of the Palestinian population in Gaza is currently at risk of prejudice, and the only effective way of preserving this right was through prevention.

South Africa is seeking these new measures before it is too late for prevention to be possible, he said.

Echoing the UN's previous assessment, du Plessis emphasised that ""no one in Gaza is safe".

Rafah assault

Some 450,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah following Israeli orders last week for Palestinians in the eastern parts of the city to leave.

They were instructed to relocate to the nearby "humanitarian zone" of al-Mawasi, an area that the aid agency Unrwa says is already overcrowded and lacks basic services.

Gaza: Where is Rafah - and why does it matter?
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Last week, South Africa called on the ICJ to order additional emergency measures against Israel over its military assault on Rafah.

In a 10-page document submitted to the ICJ, South Africa asked it to order Israel to "immediately withdraw and cease its military offensive in the Rafah Governorate" and to facilitate "unimpeded access" to humanitarian aid and assistance to the population of Gaza, the document reads.

It also demanded the entry of "internationally mandated bodies or officials, investigators, and journalists" into the country for the purpose of "retaining evidence" and also for Israel to submit an open report to the ICJ within one week of Friday, detailing the measures Israel has taken to comply with "all previous provisional measures" detailed by the court.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he would push on with his plans to invade Rafah in order to uproot Hamas, which was responsible for an attack in Israel on 7 October that killed 1,170 people and saw hundreds of captured Israelis and others taken to Gaza.

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