Written by 20:08 World

At ICJ Hearing, Israel Defends Rafah Operation as ‘Limited and Localized’

Lawyers representing Israel on Friday defended the military operation in Rafah as “limited and localized,” arguing at the United Nations’ top court that the judges should not seek to restrict Israel’s actions in Gaza.

At a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Israel responded to a South African petition for the court to order an immediate halt to its ground assault in Rafah.

Israeli forces have advanced into the outskirts of Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, over the past week and a half, ordering mass evacuations and intensifying their bombardment ahead of a long-anticipated invasion of the city. More than 630,000 people have fled the area, many of them already displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, according to the United Nations.

The hearings are part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, which it filed in December. In late January, the court ordered Israel to do more to prevent acts of genocide, but is not expected to hear the main case over whether genocide is being committed until next year.

Last week, South Africa asked the judges to issue an emergency order aiming to prevent wide-scale civilian harm in Rafah. Lawyers for South Africa argued at the court on Thursday that Israel’s Rafah operation was “the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people.”

The court has no means of enforcing its orders, but the South Africa case has contributed to the international pressure on Israel to rein in its campaign in Gaza. It was not clear when the court would issue a decision on South Africa’s request for an emergency order.

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Last modified: 19 May 2024
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