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South Africa asks ICJ to urgently act to prevent ‘full-scale famine’ in Gaza

South Africa asks ICJ to urgently act to prevent ‘full-scale famine’ in Gaza
South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor and SA Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Remko de Waal)

South Africa has again approached the International Court of Justice, with an urgent plea to issue additional emergency measures and modifications to its earlier order against Israel. It says it may be ‘the last opportunity’ the court has to save Palestinians in Gaza from famine.

South Africa has made an urgent appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the indication of additional provisional measures and the alteration of the court’s order on 26 January, calling on the ICJ to act again now, “before it is too late — to do what is within its power to save Palestinians in Gaza from genocidal starvation”.

south africa icj urgent gaza

People in front of the Peace Palace ahead of a ruling by the International Court of Justice South Africa’s request for emergency measures for Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands, on 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Remko de Waal)

In its request, filed on Wednesday, South Africa said it feared that its application “may be the last opportunity that this court shall have to save the Palestinian people in Gaza already dying of starvation, and now ‘one step’ from famine”.

South Africa reminded the ICJ that it had declined to issue additional measures in the Bosnian Genocide case and, within two years, more than 7,000 Bosnians “in the so-called safe area of Srebrenica had been slaughtered, in what this court retrospectively determined to have been a genocide”.

It said that the new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza — particularly that of widespread starvation — demanded additional and strengthened provisional measures to the ICJ order of 26 January, adding that Israel had shown contempt for the court and its order.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis news hub

“The demand could not be starker, having regard to the magnitude and gravity of the situation facing the Palestinian people in Gaza. Israel has knowingly and deliberately continued to act in defiance of the order.

“In sum, Israel has not changed its conduct materially or at all pursuant to the order — it has instead doubled down on its genocidal aims and acts,” read the application.

Among the modifications sought by South Africa is that, “All participants in the conflict must ensure that all fighting and hostilities come to an immediate halt, and that all hostages and detainees are released immediately.”  

south africa ugent icj

President Joan E Donoghue and other judges during the hearing by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Remko de Waal)

South Africa also wants the ICJ to order Israel to prevent famine in Gaza by “immediately suspending its military operations in Gaza … lifting its blockade of Gaza [and] … ensuring the provision of adequate and sufficient food, water, fuel, shelter … medical supplies and support.”

It urged the court to do so without holding a hearing, “given the extreme urgency of the situation”.

On 26 January, South Africa persuaded the ICJ that there was a plausible case of genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza.

The court ordered Israel to prevent genocide, to prevent and punish incitement to genocide and to increase humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza. But it stopped short of ordering Israel to implement a ceasefire in Gaza, which was the maximum provisional measure South Africa had called for.

It also called on Hamas to release the remaining hostages whom it captured in its attack on Israel on 7 October.

Read more in Daily Maverick: No ceasefire, but SA wins substantive rights measures in the Gaza genocide case

South Africa subsequently made an urgent request to the ICJ on 13 February for additional measures to be taken by Israel to prevent harm to civilians during its assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah. However, the court declined South Africa’s application, saying Israel remained bound by the court’s order of 26 January. 

South Africa’s latest application noted that more than 30,600 Palestinians had been killed and more than 72,000 wounded in Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the United Nations (UN) warned that one in four people in Gaza were “one step away” from experiencing famine, a situation that it said would deteriorate without the increased flow of aid into the enclave.

On Wednesday evening, South African Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, “South Africa has no choice but to approach the court to strengthen the provisional measures in place to try and prevent full-scale famine in the Gaza Strip.

“The world has an obligation to do whatever can be done immediately to stop further suffering and loss of life. The threat of all-out famine has now materialised. The court needs to act now to stop the imminent tragedy by immediately and effectively ensuring that the rights it has found are threatened under the Genocide Convention are protected. The people of Gaza cannot wait.” DM


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  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Attempts to save a nation from genocide by multiple world powers.
    Normally the response will be what about Iran backed Hamas militants?
    America is urging Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal, the question is how did America get to the point where they negotiate with a group they designated as terrorists?
    The conclusion can safely be reached that what America, allies and Israel are doing there is the worse terror in modern times and the ICJ was on the mark on the plausible genocidal acts taking place there.
    With Blinken’s new found interest in Hamas, South Africa must be applauded for it’s handling of the Palestinian issue and the ICJ must know that it’s ruling was shown the middle finger.
    Surprisingly on the review of America on south African relations the sticking point is Israel was labelled an apartheid state but the same America is touting action on settlers and hint on a two state solution, solution to what?
    Carry on Pandor you cannot save the lives lost but you can save those that can be saved.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      The most successful peaces of the last few years have come about specifically because governments did the unthinkable and negotiated with groups they regarded as terrorists: Northern Ireland and South Africa are the two most notable examples.

      Behind the scenes there are nearly always channels of communication open. Even under Thatcher, who was very clear that one never negotiates with terrorists, there would have been some line of communication between the IRA and the Government (or an intelligence organisation advising the government).

      It’s unpalatable to many, and I would include Hamas in that, but the best chances of ending this on-off-on-off war once and for all are negotiation, not Israel flattening the whole Gaza strip.

      • Gavin Hillyard says:

        There is a lot that needs to be done in our country to sort out all the problems foisted on our people by 30 years of ANC misrule. I say “Get your own house in order first before pontificating on problems thousands of miles away”. Isn’t it true that charity begins at home?

    • ST ST says:

      Yep. I hear you. You make great points on this issue and it would be great to celebrate this apparent rare moment of sanity in the ANC cadres. SA was supported by others in its time of need. However, SA is in crisis mode, escalated by the very ANC. SA can’t help others if it can’t help itself. Put your own oxygen mask first!

      This is a grossly unbalanced performance and can only make sense if it supports or is supported by ulterior motives that have nothing to do with ordinary citizens. The need to fulfil basic needs is so urgent that we have lost Ubuntu and piercingly focused on looking after number one. External affairs are too high up on the hierarchy of needs for ordinary SA. Maybe Pandor, if she’s so capable, she and her budget should’ve been redirected home where needed most.

      The clincher of course are the double standards upheld here, both at home and abroad. If the ANC knows suffering and is capable of fighting for the underdogs…why not it’s own? Infact if they hadn’t wasted resources, SA could proudly do both.

      Makes you wonder if maybe they think we don’t deserve it or too stupid to bother with. Take SA money, spend it on self and more important friends. Long term retirement, healthcare, life plans for them and immediate family and friends? Sell off SA and or leave it to rot? Sorry…I wish I was as jubilant

  • Love JHB South says:

    Love the headline – “to urgently act to prevent ‘full-scale famine’.
    So concerned about other countries, but the famine in the country that they govern is of no concern to them at all. What a bunch of hypocrits.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Perhaps if the money already spent on the ICJ case and what appears to still being spent, could now be redirected to sending food aid to Palestine. Perhaps the other big critic of this war, Russia, can send the lady R to collect food aid from Capetown. We are big critics and good at pointing fingers, but what else is Naledi doing. I doubt Israel really cares what the ICJ says, much like Russia also ignores rulings with the Ukraine crisis. Israels Allies are not going to scale back from support of Israel. Even if they say so in the media.

  • ST ST says:

    South Africans asks ANC to urgently act to prevent ‘civil war, full-scale public services collapse, full-scale economic collapse…generally full-scale state failure’ in South Africa

  • Nicky Blooms says:

    This is hilarious. 🤣😂 The ANC is absolutely ridiculous. Hamas attacked a Sovereign State. When 9/11 happened George W. Bush invaded Iraq, that was the American response to one terror attack. I think Israel’s response has been mild. Had this happened in America, Palestine would not exist. If America is negotiating with Hamas, when Donald Trump comes in all agreements are off. The ANC must worry about all the starving they created. The ICC/ICJ is funded by who? Last time I checked, Western Money. No one can go up against the West, they will destroy you…

    • Bob Dubery says:

      These things are always simple and obvious if we take an arbitrary starting point and decide that everything stems from that. Hamas did not suddenly appear one morning and decide to attack Israel just for the heck of it. That doesn’t mean that I think there should have been no retaliation, and I’m sure Hamas were expecting to get some back. But there are decades of Israel trying to keep the strip under it’s thumb, of defiance of international law in their encroachments on the West Bank which look rather like an attempt to depopulate somebody else’s territory and then say well, it might as well be ours now.

      Indeed “from the river to the sea” could be construed as Israeli policy.

      I am not saying that Hamas are innocent in all of this. They are not. But neither are Israel innocent victims.

      Those of us who profess to hate terrorists should look back at history and see what some of the people who ended up running Israel did when the British mandate was still in place. Then the picture gets a lot more complicated.

    • John P says:

      The USA did not invade Iraq as a direct response to 9/11. Their rationale for the war was to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s alleged support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people”.

      It was a typical American regime change action purely to support their own interests and should never have happened. Just because the USA behaves badly does not mean it justifies the behavior of Netanyahu or Putin.

  • Agf Agf says:

    Again the question must be asked: What in heaven’s name has this got to do with the people of South Africa? 90% of the population could not pick out Israel on a map of the world. South Africa has a tiny percentage of Muslims, albeit they are highly vocal and quite militant. Why does the Government persist in this pointless tirade against Israel? I can only think that it is to score brownie points with its allies Iran, Russia, China and the rest of the Axis of Evil.

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    So local starvation means nothing to the Anc they dong care people are starving in their own backyard but want to demand Gaza people are fed first ? Do all those who vote anc understand they will always be used as voting fodder and no more.

  • L T. says:

    In this same edition of DM is a report on the 25 million people in Sudan who are being starved. Pandor and her cohorts are not concerned about them…..

  • Alan Salmon says:

    No mention of the hostages. No mention of real starvation and famine in Sudan. No mention of Russian acts of genocide in Ukraine. SA should be spending the ICJ money at home !

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Pandor and the ANC want the ICJ to do things without (even) a hearing

  • Alan Paterson says:

    I remember well when Professor Glenda Gray raised the issue of malnutrition in South Africa at time of Covid and was promptly rubbished by Mkhize, his equally discredited Director General, the pharmacist, and others. Four years later agencies including UNICEF report 27% of South African children under 5 years being growth stunted with 61% iron-deficient. Wars always end and populations will recover but the issue of our malnourished children, as with elsewhere in Africa, will be ongoing.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    To the many Zionist defenders … with misguided retorts about what is happening at home … a simple question : why did America decide a few days ago to ‘drop’ food into Gaza on the “human animals” … if there is no starvation/famine/humanitarian disaster which the UN agencies have been warning about for months already ? I guess they are trying to preempt that they and the ‘west’ will be held to account for at the ‘Nuremberg’ to come, for the genocide they were party to ?

  • Paul Alberts says:

    Fukude, we eagerly await your report on how the Pandor and cronies will be saving the millions of starving South Africans, you have no clue you say, thought so.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Paul the mistake is the assumption that the foreign affairs ministry must leave their duty, which they do very well in dealing with foreign matters and meddle with domestic matters that fall under the social development ministry, the length we will go to bring down a well performing ministry and individual is disheartening.
      Same like we try to ignore the fact that Israel is an occupier with state sponsored racist policies against Palestinians.
      If Palestinians had European features the occupation of Palestine would have been treated the same as Russia’s occupation of Ukraine by the same people who divert facts here.

  • William Stucke says:

    > South Africa also wants the ICJ to order Israel to prevent famine in Gaza by “… ensuring the provision of adequate and sufficient food, water, fuel, shelter … medical supplies and support.”

    Wot? Why is it Israel’s responsibility to feed an enemy that they are at war with? They HAVE supplied Gaza with water, electricity etc, in the past because their own government – Hamas – couldn’t care less about their own Palestinians.

    • Ben Harper says:

      In terms of International Humanitarian Law and other conflict statutes it’s not Israel’s responsibility and they have no obligation to provide them with anything

    • W C says:

      Israel seized Gaza during the 6 day war in 1967 and has occupied it since, Palestine has not been free to provide its own food and water due to an Israeli blockade in 2005. So if Israel lifted this blockade and allowed poeple access to essential provisions to stop the famine it wouldn’t be Israel’s responsibility.

      • Ben Harper says:

        You left out the part that all of the neighbouring counties AGAIN attacked Israel in 1967 but their attack failed and hence the occupation. You also fail to mention that Egypt occupied Gaza up to 1967 and ruled it with a military force, likewise the West Bank was occupied and ruled by Jordan. Note that Egypt started this conflict and was joined by Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Maybe the ANC masquerading as a competent government should ask their friend Putin to contribute towards the food.

    • Michael Thomlinson says:

      Where is Iran in all of this? Surely they should be supplying food aid to the Palestinians? But no, it is easier and better to supply arms to Hamas because then the suffering of the Palestinian people can be magnified on the world stage. I also see that an overall figure of 30000 has been bandied about regarding how many Palestinains have been killed but how many of them are Hamas fighters?

      • John P says:

        Iran has supplied food and other humanitarian aid to Gaza. Regretfully they also supply money and weapons. All the figures bandied about by both sides of the conflict are open to interpretation. What is fact however is that thousands of civilians and children have been made homeless, been injured and died in the overwhelming and excessive Israeli response to the Hamas terror attacks.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    There are likely more people suffering a food deficit in the Eastern Cape alone than in Gaza as we speak. The ANCs crass electioneering redirection repulses me.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    How about dealing with the poverty, malnutrition and lack of services back home first, Mrs Pandor!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Deficits there will always be … but imagine if the ‘world’ had not not supported our struggle against apartheid ? At least with ‘democracy’ we have the option of ‘removing’ those we disapprove of … but that is not guaranteed !

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob March 8th 2024 at 06:18
    Although an ANC member Naledi Pandor may have become a reasonable politician if it was not for the fact that she suffers with verbal diahorrea from time to time. Even prior to the Hamas attack it was well known that Ramaphosa and his government had a hatred for Israel.
    So long as ANC is in control nothing will change.
    VOTE them out on May 29th.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Given that the Israeli regime is the last apartheid regime (on steroids with US and ‘western’ complicity – 10% of world population) should we not ‘all’ be against it ? After all … you didn’t support apartheid here … or maybe I err there ? I share your sentiment about voting them out … BUT beware what comes in its place ! Nothing is guaranteed. Just look at the US for political shenanigans ! A known and convicted con artist and scamster running to be president with agent orange all over his face .

  • Neil Nothard says:

    Rightly or wrongly SA have made their point at the ICJ. Was it necessary to go back 2 more times …. It must be costing us a fortune. I hope this is not to satisfy a few egos. If the SA government is so genuinely concerned with genocide/people displacements/hunger why aren’t we going to the ICJ to try and stop Al Shabaab in northern Mocambique … and there are other examples I’ve seen in this thread.

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