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Middle East conflict

South Africa asks World Court to weigh Israel’s Rafah offensive

South Africa asks World Court to weigh Israel’s Rafah offensive
Smoke rises following Israeli air strike during a military operation in Khan Younis town, southern Gaza Strip, 12 February 2024. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 60 people have been killed and over 230 others have been injured in the airstrikes carried out by the Israeli military. According to a statement released by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), two Israeli hostages were rescued during an overnight operation in Rafah. More than 28,300 Palestinians and over 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), since Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October 2023, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank which followed it. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 13 (Reuters) - South Africa said on Tuesday it had asked the World Court to consider whether Israel's plan to extend its offensive in Gaza into the city of Rafah requires additional emergency measures to protect Palestinians' rights.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, in a case brought by South Africa.

Israel has denied all allegations of genocide in connection with its war against Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and asked the court to reject the case outright, saying it respects international law and has a right to defend itself.

Israel has said it is planning to expand its ground assault into Rafah, where over a million Palestinians have sought refuge from the offensive that has laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“In a request submitted to the court yesterday (Feb. 12), the South African government said it was gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction,” a statement issued by South Africa’s presidency said.

“This would be in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court’s Order of Jan. 26.”

The Hague-based ICJ confirmed in a post on X it had received the request but gave no indication how, and when, it would make a decision. The Israeli foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In past cases the ICJ has sometimes granted additional emergency measures when circumstances on the ground changed.

The court has not yet ruled on the core of the case brought by South Africa – whether genocide has occurred in Gaza. But it recognised the right of Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alexander Winning and Mark Heinrich)

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