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South Africa calls on ICJ to end 'Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza'

South Africa claims that Israel did not fulfill provisional measures issued by the ICJ to prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza.
South African professor of International Law John Dugard and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor (R) arrive at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prior to the verdict announcement in the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa, in The Hague on January 26, 2024. The top UN court said Israel should do everything it could to prevent any acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip, in a highly anticipated ruling. Israel must do everything to "prevent the co

South Africa asked the International Court of Justice Thursday to issue new or amended provisional measures to protect the residents of the Gaza Strip and what it calls Israel’s "genocidal campaign in Gaza." The request said Israel’s Gaza offensive poses an “extreme risk” to humanitarian supplies, to the Palestinian medical system and to “the very survival of Palestinians in Gaza as a group.”

Israel is expected to present to the ICJ its counter arguments on Friday morning. The court did not indicate when it would respond to South Africa’s request. 

South Africa approaches ICJ for third time

The May 10 request followed another complaint submitted to the ICJ on Dec. 29, 2023, when South Africa asked for the court two things: to assert that Israel was guilty of breaching the Genocide Convention, of which it is signatory, and to issue provisional measures ordering Israel to stop its military operation in the Strip. 

Israel and South Africa are both signatories to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. South Africa claimed in December it had called on Israel on multiple occasions to stop its military operations in Rafah, calls that were ignored. As such, said South Africa, there is a dispute between the two countries, granting the court jurisdiction over the issue. 

The ICJ accepted South Africa’s first demand for an inquiry in January and is currently investigating Israel’s military conduct in Gaza. The investigation could take several more months. Responding to the second demand, the court issued provisional measures ordering Israel to uphold the Genocide Convention and to investigate cases of alleged incitement of genocide against Palestinians. Still, the court declined South Africa’s request to order Israel to stop its military operation immediately. 

Responding to South Africa's second, similar request for provisional measures last March, the court again called on Israel to respect the convention, but declined to order Israel to stop its military operation.

South Africa says Israel’s Rafah operation shows genocidal intent

The South African legal team claimed Thursday that the provisional measures issued on Jan. 26 and March 28, calling on Israel to avoid any measures that could breach the Genocide Convention and to prevent incitement to kill Palestinians, were not fulfilled. 

South Africa said that Israel’s invasion of east Rafah, the last place of refuge for Gazan civilians; its closure of crossing points, thus blocking the entry of humanitarian aid; and the parallel assault on Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip show Israel’s intentions of genocidal acts.

South African jurist Max du Plessis said at Thursday’s hearing, "There is no place in Gaza and no one in Gaza that is safe." Plessis quoted far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's words on April 29, "There are no half measures. Rafah, Deir al-Balah, Nuseirat — total annihilation," as proof of Israel’s intentions. 

South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said Israel was pressing ahead in Rafah despite “explicit warnings” of genocidal consequences. The operation in Rafah, he said, “is the last stage of total annihilation of Palestinian life.”

Arguing that Israeli leaders incite genocide against Palestinians and call for their destruction, Ngcukaitobi said that in recent statements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Israel’s aim in the military assault as to ensure that Gaza, not Hamas, will never again constitute a threat to Israel. He also quoted Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Nissim Vatori saying that Israel "should invade Gaza yesterday" and "There are no uninvolved parties. We need to go in and kill, and kill and kill."

The South African team showed a video of soldiers preparing to enter Rafah. After the blowing of the Shofar as a battle call, the soldiers are seen chanting, "Let’s go and destroy Rafah."

Several countries have made political statements by joining the South African complaint. Turkey announced it was doing so on May 1 and Egypt announced its intentions to join on May 12.