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South Africa Petitions ICJ to Halt Israel's Actions in Gaza Amid Humanitarian Crisis

South Africa petitions ICJ to halt Israel's Gaza operations, amid a humanitarian crisis with over 34,000 Palestinian deaths.

By Athena Xu

5/16, 12:11 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • South Africa petitions the International Court of Justice to halt Israel's military actions in Gaza, citing severe harm to Palestinian civilians.
  • The conflict has resulted in over 34,000 Palestinian deaths; ICJ interim orders focus on protecting civilians and ensuring humanitarian aid.
  • Amidst international concern, efforts to deliver aid face challenges due to closed crossing points and ongoing hostilities in Gaza.

International Court of Justice Hearing

South Africa has brought a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), urging the tribunal to take decisive action to ensure Israel protects civilians in Gaza amidst ongoing military operations. Vaughan Lowe, a lawyer representing South Africa, emphasized the court's capability to enforce international law and protect Palestinian rights in Gaza, particularly in the southern city of Rafah. The ICJ is currently hearing arguments from South Africa, with Israeli representatives scheduled to present their case. South Africa's legal action seeks an urgent order to prevent "further, severe and irreparable harm" to Palestinians due to Israel's military campaign.

Israel's Defense and Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis

Israel defends its military actions in Gaza as a legitimate response to Hamas-led attacks, citing the tragic loss of 1,200 lives and the abduction of approximately 200 individuals on October 7. The conflict has resulted in over 34,000 Palestinian deaths, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. Amidst cease-fire talks reaching an impasse, Israel has expanded its ground offensive in Rafah, where approximately 1 million Palestinians are sheltering. The ICJ, in a previous interim order, demanded Israel to prevent the killing of innocent Palestinians but did not mandate a ceasefire.

Legal and Humanitarian Appeals

The ICJ has been approached by South Africa to classify Israel's actions in Gaza as genocide and to compel Israeli troop withdrawal. Although the court recognized Palestinians' "plausible right to be protected from genocide," it has yet to determine the plausibility of the genocide claim itself. Recent orders from the tribunal have focused on ensuring the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, highlighting the critical need for unimpeded access to Gaza for aid organizations and journalists. Despite these orders, challenges in delivering humanitarian aid persist, exacerbated by Israel's closure of crossing points into Gaza.

International Responses and Developments

The ongoing conflict has prompted various international reactions, including Egypt's rejection of an Israeli proposal to reopen the Rafah crossing, a critical point for aid delivery into Gaza. The United Nations has expressed concerns over the difficulty of distributing aid within Gaza, citing the absence of regular fuel imports and ongoing hostilities. Meanwhile, Germany has taken measures against a group showing solidarity with Palestinian resistance, citing the spread of antisemitic narratives. The US military has initiated efforts to facilitate aid delivery to Gaza through a newly anchored pier, aiming to significantly improve the humanitarian situation.

Management Quotes

  • Vaughan Lowe (Lawyer representing South Africa):

    "The key point today is that Israel’s aim of destroying Gaza from the map is being realized. The court is not powerless and South Africa submits it must do something to assert its own authority and also the authority of international law."

  • Max du Plessis (Lawyer representing South Africa):

    "Israel’s closure of those crossings has hermetically sealed Rafah, further torpedoing the delivery of humanitarian aid."