UN court rejects South African request for urgent measures to safeguard Rafah

The top UN court rejected a South African request to impose urgent measures to safeguard Rafah in the Gaza Strip but also stressed that Israel must respect earlier measures imposed late last month at a preliminary stage in a landmark genocide case.

The International Court of Justice said in a statement that the “perilous situation” in Rafah “demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures” that it ordered on January 26.

It said no new order was necessary because the existing measures “are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah.”

The world court added that Israel “remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention” and the January 26 ruling, which ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza.

World Court Israel Genocide Case
A protester waving the Palestinian flag stands outside the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

Israel has identified Rafah as the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza and vowed to continue its offensive there.

An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza’s population, has crammed into the city, most of them displaced people who fled fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Israel has said it will evacuate the civilians before attacking, though international aid officials have said there is nowhere to go due to the vast devastation left behind by the offensive.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

On Thursday, Israel urged the world court to reject what it called South Africa’s “highly peculiar and improper” request.

Israel strongly denies committing genocide in Gaza and says it does all it can to spare civilians and is only targeting Hamas militants.

It says Hamas’ tactic of embedding in civilian areas makes it difficult to avoid civilian casualties.

Even so, last month the court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

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