South Africa Advocates for Gaza by Urging Legal Action Against Israel’s Offensive in Rafah

South Africa has urged the International Court of Justice to intervene and cease Israel’s offensive in Rafah. The African country has previously made accusations against Israel and their inability to follow laws. As the situation in Gaza continues to worsen, South Africa reiterates its plea for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to ensure Israel is held accountable for its actions. The court will hear from Pretoria on May 16 followed by Jerusalem the next day. 

South Africa’s administrative capital, Pretoria says “Israel must immediately withdraw and seize its military offensive in Rafah”. South Africa additionally requested “unimpeded” entry to Gaza for U.N. officials, humanitarian organizations, journalists, and investigators. Israel’s military offense targeting Rafah presents an“extreme risk” to “humanitarian supplies and basic services into Gaza, to the survival of the Palestinian medical system, and to the very survival of Palestinians in Gaza as a group,” South Africa said in its request to the ICJ. 

Rafah has been named the “last refuge” for Palestinians in Gaza and by “attacking Rafah, Israel is attacking the only remaining area of the Strip which has not yet been substantially destroyed by Israel.” “With Rafah’s destruction, the destruction of Gaza itself will be complete,” said South Africa in its petition to the judge.

The latest request to the ICJ signifies the fourth instance of South Africa seeking further action. Last year, South Africa initiated a genocide case against Israel at the ICJ. However, according to Reuters, Israel in response to this accusation said it is “acting per international law in Gaza, and has called South Africa’s genocide case baseless and accused Pretoria of acting as the legal arm of Hamas”. The court instructed Israel to take every possible action to avert fatalities, devastation, and any acts of genocide in Gaza. Subsequently, two months later, the court issued a second set of directives, instructing Israel to better humanitarian conditions.

On May 6, despite mandates from the ICJ instructing Israel to prevent acts of genocide, Israel began its military operation against Rafah. UNRWA reported that more than 450,000 Palestinians have since fled Rafah as a response to Israel’s unlawful evacuation orders.  International humanitarian law provides precise criteria for the legality of evacuations. Such as guaranteeing displacements are temporary and that displaced individuals receive adequate hygiene, health, safety, and nutrition provisions while ensuring that family members are not separated. However, Israeli authorities have not fulfilled any of these stipulations. Despite enduring numerous displacements, the residents of Rafah are now being compelled to evacuate once more, amidst ruined infrastructure and overall destruction. Moreover, the increased evacuation orders and continued military progression will result in the complete loss of critical life-sustaining services.

As the Palestinians of Rafah are being subjected to a “humanitarian aid blockade” it is crucial that aid workers can access the region. South Africa has previously and continues to be a voice of compassion for Palestinians. Trying to prevent further humanitarian violations in Gaza is a commendable effort. Nonetheless, as violence persists in Rafah and previous appeals from ICJ have not affected Israel’s approach, it is imperative to establish a means for humanitarian aid to enter the area and help civilians.