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Watch in full: Israel asks ICJ to reject South Africa's request that it end Rafah offensive

Israel contests accusations of genocide and that it be ordered to halt its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah

Israel asked judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday to reject a request from South Africa that it be ordered withdraw from Gaza and halt its military offensive on Rafah. 

Israel's representatives told the UN's top court that South Africa's case was "completely divorced from the facts and circumstances" and made a "mockery of the heinous charge of genocide."

"South Africa purports to come before you as the guardian of humanity but it has an ulterior motive: military advantage for its ally Hamas that is does not wish to see defeated," Gilad Noam, Israel's deputy attorney general for international law, told the Hague.

Noam said that South Africa met with a delegation from Hamas, where it "did not advocate for release of hostages or protection of civilians but rather their continued campaign against Israel in the Court and on the ground."

Later, Tamar Kaplan Tourgeman, the principal deputy legal adviser of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused South Africa of sharing a "blatant misrepresentation" of facts in the first day of hearings, saying she heard "venomous accusations" from the African nation.

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On Thursday, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusi Madonsela, had asked the court to "do what it can to stop the genocide," which he said had "shocked the conscience of humanity."

He added that South Africa's fourth submission to the court was triggered not only by the assault on Rafah but by an intensification of the Israeli assault across Gaza in the last few days.

Later, South Africa's second representative, Professor Vaughan Lowe, told the ICJ that the provisional measures already issued to Israel by the court were "not effective" in protecting Palestinians against genocide, and asked the court to "reassert its own authority and the authority of international law".

He said the current Israeli offensive on Rafah is "the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people."

"It was Rafah that brought South Africa to the court, but it is all Palestinians - as a national ethnic and racial group - who need the protection from genocide that the court can order," he said.

In January, the ICJ ordered Israel to ensure its troops do not commit genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza, allow in more humanitarian aid and preserve any evidence of violations.

However, humanitarian organisations have repeatedly lamented Israeli aid restrictions as famine stalks the enclave.

Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organisation (WHO), told reporters on Friday that the agency had not been able to get medical aid into Gaza since 6 May.

"We don't have fuel. We have hospitals under evacuation order. We have a situation where we cannot move physically," he said.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, was established in 1945 to resolve disputes between states. It should not be confused with the treaty-based International Criminal Court (ICC), also in The Hague, which handles war crimes cases against individuals.

South Africa and Israel are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention giving the ICJ jurisdiction to rule on disputes over the treaty. While the case revolves around the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians have no official role in the proceedings.

All states that signed the Genocide Convention are obliged to not commit genocide, and to prevent and punish it. The treaty defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

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