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Israel asks ICJ to dismiss SA’s request for new measures to prevent imminent famine in Gaza

Israel asks ICJ to dismiss SA’s request for new measures to prevent imminent famine in Gaza
Gilad Noam, Deputy Attorney-General for International Affairs, and lawyer Malcolm Shaw during a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, The Netherlands, on a request by South Africa for emergency measures for Gaza, 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Remko de Waal)

Israel has described South Africa’s request to the International Court of Justice for provisional measures to prevent famine in Gaza as an attempt to ‘relitigate what the court has already decided’.

Israel has responded to South Africa’s request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for additional provisional measures and modifications to its 26 January order, asking the ICJ to refuse South Africa’s request to make an order to prevent famine in Gaza and not indicate any further provisional measures. 

The ICJ on Monday made public Israel’s observations on South Africa’s urgent request of 6 March. 

In its observations, filed to the court on 15 March, Israel said South Africa’s request “hinges on a misrepresentation of reality, and a sensationalist and obsessive attempt to accuse Israel of the most egregious crimes regardless of the law or the facts”.

“South Africa seeks to relitigate what the Court has already decided, and to have the Court micromanage the conduct of hostilities in Gaza, not because this is in any way legally justified or required, but as a way for South Africa to seek continual political attention and to demonstrate continuing solidarity with its ally Hamas.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa asks ICJ to urgently act to prevent ‘full-scale famine’ in Gaza

Internally displaced Palestinian children queue up with their pots and containers waiting to receive food provided by Arab and Palestinian donors in Deir Al Balah town, southern Gaza Strip, 24 February 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / MOHAMMED SABER)

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 captured in its attack on Israel on 7 October.

South Africa made an appeal to the ICJ on 6 March for the indication of additional provisional measures and the modification of the court’s 26 January order — calling on the court to urgently act to prevent famine in the region. 

It argued that a change of circumstance in Gaza — particularly the situation of widespread starvation — demanded additional provisional measures and amendments to the ICJ order, saying that Israel had shown contempt for the court and its order. 

Among the modifications sought by South Africa was 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.”  

It also wanted 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.”

This was the second urgent request South Africa filed with the ICJ — the first request being on 12 February for additional measures to be taken by Israel to prevent harm to civilians during its assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The court declined this request, saying Israel remained bound by its order of 26 January. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis news hub

In its response to SA’s 6 March request, Israel argued that there has been no “change in the situation” in Gaza.

“It is of course inevitable that in the course of an ongoing conflict, there will be developments in the situation. However, that does not mean that every such development can be regarded as a ‘change in the situation’ for purposes of the Rules of Court; otherwise, new requests for additional provisional measures could be made on a daily basis,” it said. 

Tal Becker (L), Legal Counsel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and lawyer Malcolm Shaw (R), prior to the hearing of the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, 11 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / REMKO DE WAAL)

Article 76

The international justice cluster lead for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, Dr Atilla Kisla, told Daily Maverick Israel’s response was “nothing unexpected”.

“It highlights the requirement that what must be met is a change in the situation, and that remains up to the court now to make a decision — whether it considers that the actual situation on the ground has changed significantly; that modification of the provisional measures is justified or not.”  

In trying to refute South Africa’s arguments of starvation and the threat of famine, Kisla said Israel claimed what SA had submitted was “outrageous and unsubstantiated”.

Kisla believed SA’s latest request was “much more extensive”, and went into “much more detail about the threat of starvation and famine than its previous request on 12 February”.

What South Africa did was also refer to Article 76. Under Article 76 of the Rules of Court, the court, at the request of a party or on its own initiative, may modify provisional measures that it has issued or revoke them if there has been some change in the situation that justifies this. 

“Compared to that request from mid-February, I think this request has a better chance of convincing the court that the situation has changed,” he said.

However, Kisla said the court could still hold the view that the provisional orders of 26 January were sufficient and Israel remained bound by these orders, and therefore there was no need for a modification of these measures.

Professor of international law at the University of Cape Town Cathleen Powell believed that South Africa has a slightly stronger case in its second request, given that, “we now have records of children dying of starvation … and because the situation has become far, far worse”.

Powell said that should the ICJ decline South Africa’s latest request, the country would be able to take the court’s decision of 26 January to the UN Security Council to seek action against Israel if it failed to comply with the January order.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor (C) speaks to the international press following a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, on a request by South Africa for emergency measures for Gaza, 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Remko de Waal)

‘Famine is imminent’

The publication of Israel’s observations on South Africa’s request comes as experts warn famine is imminent for 300,000 people in northern Gaza and 1.1 million people — half the region’s population — are experiencing “catastrophic food insecurity”.

A new report, released on Monday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), said: “The IPC acute food insecurity analysis conducted in December 2023 warned of a risk that famine may occur by the end of May 2024 if an immediate cessation of hostilities and sustained access for the provision of essential supplies and services to the population did not take place.  

“Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met and the latest evidence confirms that famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024.” 

According to the report, this is the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded by the IPC system.

The IPC is a global authority on food insecurity that analyses data from the UN World Food Programme, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to determine the severity and magnitude of hunger crises. 

Since the IPC was established in 2004, it has been used to classify a famine only twice before: in Somalia in 2011 and South Sudan in 2017, The New York Times reported. More than 100,000 people died in Somalia before famine was officially declared in the region.

Across the Gaza Strip, people are facing dire food shortages amid Israeli bombardment, with the entire population in the enclave “facing high levels of acute food insecurity”, according to the IPC report. 

The airstrikes and missile attacks that continue to pound the Gaza Strip have killed more than 31,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 73,000, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Israel launched its attacks in retaliation for Hamas’ 7 October attack that killed almost 1,200 people, mostly civilians, with about 250 people taken hostage. DM


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  • Dennis Bailey says:

    SAs inconsistency shine like the sun through a storm. What about Sudan (Dafur especially) and a miriad other places where the hungry die.

    • Peter Relleen says:

      Well said.
      SA’s whole agenda is being driven by one person’s maniacal fervour – without listening to the facts.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Its not an accidental inconsistency by the ANC (The ANC doesn’t really speak for most South Africans in this conflict because the majority who voted for them don’t have a clue whats happening over there.). Very intentionally biased and select inconsistency. The Naledis of the ANC are currently watching Hezbollah sitting in Lebanon sending missiles repeatedly into Northern Israel. They haven’t said a word yet. No attempt to mediate with their terrorist brethren to avoid another Gaza happening in Lebanon. Israel has been warning of an imminent threat of defending itself from Hezbollah for months now and repeatedly calling on international mediation to resolve this looming crisis.

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        Is that why your cousin Ursula and Olaf (besides Biden – who have been party to the genocide for over 5 months !) have just warned butcher and psychopath Netanyahu (and his war cabinet) not to invade Rafa also ? And building temporary harbours to ship in food? What a bunch of BS ! And Israeli spokespeople gallantly and openly appear on TV and talk about ‘displacing’ Palestinians from Gaza – its called ethnic cleansing ? Just like the pathetic and shameless ‘arguments’ presented to ICJ, who should ‘see through’ this charade .. as they did in the first ‘meritless’ case!

        • Malcolm McManus says:

          Alleged Genocide. No genocide ruling yet. Innocent until proven guilty. Here in South Africa, the home of your cousin Naledi, we can watch CCTV footage of someone murdering or raping a young girl, and its only alleged until a court proves guilt, which can take years and decades here if Zuma is anything to go by. Looks like we are a great role model for the planet.

    • John P says:

      This is just deflection and whataboutism

  • Chris le Montfort says:

    Our Minister for Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Hamas, Hesbollah and the Houthis should take heed that the rest of the world now regards South Africa’s “neutrality” as a blatant sham. There is therefore no credibility in this latest application to the Court, nor in any “peace discussions” for Ukraine.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      “credibility” … Like in the first application ? What were you thinking – dr Phil … or should I say smoking?
      BUT like you said … the first 4 are countries … but the rest are not ! Why do I bother with this BS ! As for “the rest of the world” you mean the ‘west’ representing 10% of the world population ?

  • Chris le Montfort says:

    PS. Forgot to add Iran, Zimbabwe and Sudan on which South Africa takes a “principled, neutral stance”! Like entertaining one of the thugs from the Sudan to tea recently Mr. President, or welcoming a delegation from Hamas?

  • Ur not Serious says:

    Obviously SA is not asking that Hamas surrender and face justice for the war crimes they committed on 7 Oct, and return the hostages… Nope. It’s Israel’s obligation to feed, supply and protect the people who support and provide a platform for Hamas (despite Hamas stealing all the supplies & using the people as human shields. Ask urself, miiiiiiles of tunnels, no bomb shelters??? ) rather than destroy the terrorist organization that has vowed publicly and without shame to repeat the atrocities of Oct 7. South Africa is a sick country.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Give up the pseudonym … or are you afraid of disclosing your racist identity ? As for the hostages … you mean the thousands in Israeli jails for 60plus years ?

    • craig white says:

      and have you asked that Israel be held accountable for their crimes over the last 80 years in Palestine ? it was never Israels obligation to feed ( starve ) palestinians , you ve made the point for Palestinains , they did not ask Israel to keep them in a cage for teh last 80 years , or settle on their land , neither did they ask Israel to ‘protect ( enslave them ) …. they asked for none of this at all , quite teh opposite , they ve asked to be left alone so they can have their own land , and their own culture , and their own dignity and they ve asked to be able to feed themselves … the reason they have tunnels is because they are kept like “animals ” ( Israels ministers words for them ) , and are shot on site for showing any dissent ( demands for their own freedom ) by Israeli soldiers ………… what is Israels reason for doing this , ie what is Israels reason for disallowing Palestinians their own way of life ?

      • Ur not Serious says:

        The walls were erected by Israel and EGYPT (yes, there is a border with Egypt, controlled by Egypt) after the election of Hamas, because no one wants neighbour’s that are terrorists (surprise!). Palestinian leaders have refused every single offer of their own state since 1947 (had they accepted, like Israel did, they would have had a state alongside Israel as old as Israel is now) instead they did what they always do, choose war and lose badly. There was not a single Israeli soldier in Gaza on 6 Oct, that’s a fact. Israel withdrew everyone, troops and civilians alike unilaterally (for nothing in return) and instead of building a state and thriving, you guessed it, they have been starting wars ever since. Most of the people at the Nova festival and Kibbutz Bir Oz were hugely left wing. They dreamed of peace, who knows what they think now after being tortured, murdered and abducted from their own homes. The temple mount ( which is called Al Aqsa Mosque though the Jewish holy site predates the Muslim one) is the Only religious site in Israel that is not open to all religions. It is on land controlled by Israel but only Muslims may pray there, this is purely to avoid the war that will come if the Palestinians don’t get there own way on the holiest site on the world to Jews. Tell me again that Israel wants to ‘disallow Palestinians their own way of life’

        • John P says:

          From 1944 to 1946 more than a hundred thousand Jews illegally entered Palestine, a further 120,000 before 1948.
          The United Nations decided on a Partition Plan without input from the Palestinians who had been living peacefully with the illegal Jewish immigrants. This led to conflict with thousands killed and more than 100,00 Arabs fleeing the area. The USA withdrew their agreement for the partition plan.
          On May 14 1948 the Jewish Peoples Council declared the independent state of Israel which was immediately recognised by the USA.
          Where did the Palestinians have an opportunity for their own state in this? The most they were offered was some of the land that was already theirs.

        • virginia crawford says:

          This should have gone into the disinformation/ misinformation bin.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      There are 2 victims who are being killed in the only space where they are supposed to be safe, the Ukrainians and the Palestinians, the sad fact is the whole world is debating translations, Russia is slaughtering Ukrainians and Israel is slaughtering Palestinians.
      It’s 2 states slaughtering 2 nations,partisans and militant groups are revolts that comes with resisting the slaughter.
      Come with all excuses and fancy names the facts remain the same.

      • Ur not Serious says:

        It’s really strange that you equate the twox and ironic that you go on to claim to know the facts. Hamas started the war with Israel in an unprovoked and incredibly brutal attack on civilians, launched from a place that Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from in the futile hope of peace. Hamas has proceeded to conduct a war hiding behind civilians. They have been completely open about their plans to repeat the attacks of 7 Oct, leaving Israel with little choice but to eradicate them for the sake of its own survival.

        Russia invaded Ukraine, which posed no threat to them at all.

        • Mahendra Dabideen says:

          Ur not serious!!!!!!

          Russia and Israel are the same, they both are killing innocent people after they invaded Palestine and Ukraine, NOT THEIR LAND

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    The anc need to stop this and look at their own backyard and the millions who are starving as well as the rising crime rate. They are utter hypocrites’ when you look at the starving in Africa . Israel is far stronger than this irrelevant lot. Pandor needs to be removed from this ministerial post before she causes any more trouble for the country.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Like you did during Apartheid … until it was declared a ‘crime against humanity’ ?

      • Michael Thomlinson says:

        What has apartheid got to do with this? The ANC’s stance on Israel is simply a thinly veiled attempt to persuade the Muslim community in the WC to vote ANC and to paint the DA as zionists. There is also an uncomfirmed suspician that SA is being paid money by the Iranians and Russia to run interferance on this whole issue. Although the Hamas/Israeli war is a terrible business, we have more pressing problems to solve here at home that our ministers should be focussing on.

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          The government has a foreign affairs office which deals with these issues and they are doing their jobs, human settlement offices must deal with domestic issues.

    • craig white says:

      if you look at your “reply ” , its quite obvious that you dont appreciate freedom of choice or the choice ( what democracy actually is – choice to decide for yourselves ) … that you wish the old apartheid Government back in SA , because without an armed struggle , SA would still have that , and now the Palestinians have Hamas …. and your Utterances that “causing SA any more trouble “means that you have decided that “not listening to the murderous US and Israel ” will bring harm to SA …. the same US that has killed more people on this earth than any other country , in the name of “freedom and democracy ” … not really good role – models to “be in trouble ” with surely …… i mean a country who has as a matter of “Foreign policy ” bombed and maimed millions and displaced hundreds of Millions in the name of “democracy ” by changing governments and murdering people around the world who dont agree with their policies ? SA s position may be slightly ironic , but to pretend that the US and Israel are saviours of the world is both idiotic and self – defeating

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Oppression is oppression? Well, not really, not if you’re oppressed by a Western backed state. This state can even build settlements on your land, incrementally stealing, and getting away with it, decade after decade, but you dare not resort to arms – that’s terrorism.
    I’m fed up with the hypocrisy. Our government calls out Israel’s government but gives Putin a pass? Commentators here call out our government, and rightly so, yet seem callously indifferent to the oppression that IS happening and how long this oppression has been allowed to go on?
    Morality isn’t about been pro-West.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      The ‘west’ (10% of world population) is quite deliberately called the ‘international community’ [sic] (Israeli style propaganda) .. to add to the mess the ‘west’ has largely created … thanks to what Beinart accurately calls American (western?) hubris in ‘The Icarus Syndrome’ ! Remember there was once a “great” Britain ? All ’empires’ come to an end sometime … unfortunately ! You are right to point out some of the ‘inconsistencies’ of our current regime’s stances.

  • Gareth Searle says:

    1Million people facing starvation ( and thats CNN reporting)
    and still… Israel apologists + what about them’isms here in full force. Pathetic

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Wow .. even CNN (which I can’t afford to access) .. I thought only the BBC did so recently ! You would think that when such ultra pro-Israeli media start (admittedly very belatedly … though the horror is daily accessible on another channel located in Palestine) to disclose/show such news items … some of the Zionist defenders here would at least take note ? Maybe that is asking too much of ‘occupied’ minds ?

  • Jean Racine says:

    Has Israel retained the services of Dali Mpofu SC? That response is Dali-esque in its fulsome waffle.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Very simple Pandor – stop your hysterical bleating, antics and throwing the toys out of the cot and get your bosom buddies Hamas to release the hostages as the ICJ also stated!! Unlike in SA where you and your vile party/government gets to pick and choose what to comply with with no accountability, on the world (excluding of course the pariah and murderous nations that you so worship) stage it doesn’t work as you have zero credibility, gravitas or respect. They see you as an arch-hypocrite, a consummate liar and so heavily/irretrievably biased – like Cyril the spineless and duplicitous. You are a disgrace to SA!

  • Lucifer's Consiglieri says:

    Victoria is, i assume, not a lawyer, so can perhaps be forgiven, but South Africa did nor persuad the ICJ “that there was a plausible case of genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza”. That is a matter still to be decided. The court decided that the “rights for which South Africa seeks protection” were “plausible”. This is an odd feature of the wording of the relevant treaty. What it did not do, is make any comment on whether the factual allegation of genocide was plausible. South Africa’s DIRCO, with a political head who is a new convert to Islam and thus understadably zealous, has wholly misrepresented to its people what the court actually decided.

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