South Africa Asks Top U.N. Court to Act Against Israel’s Plans for Rafah

With Israel continuing to warn that it plans a ground invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to issue new constraints on Israel’s military offensive to prevent genocide.

In a filing on Monday, the South African government said that it was “gravely concerned” by Israel’s planned ground advance into Rafah, where more than a million Gazans have sought shelter, which it said “has already led to and will result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has described Rafah as Hamas’s last stronghold, said on Sunday that a ground invasion would move forward there as soon as Israel completed plans for the more than a million people sheltering in the city to be allowed to move to safety.

In December, South Africa filed a case with the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court, accusing Israel of genocide and asking the court to step in with emergency orders.

In response, the court ordered Israel last month to ensure that its actions would not lead to genocide and to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza. But the court did not order a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip. The process of considering whether Israel is committing genocide could take the court several years.

In its request on Monday, South Africa argued that a ground invasion of Rafah would be in breach of the court’s January orders and that the court should consider further emergency measures, though it did not lay out what it believed those should be.

The court said that it had asked Israel for comment. Under court rules, the judges will have to consider South Africa’s request as a matter of priority. That could mean scheduling a hearing or issuing a new order as early as Monday. The court is also starting a six-day hearing on another issue involving Israel on Monday.

Israel’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but Israel has rejected accusations of genocide.

On Monday, Israeli forces freed two hostages held in the city in a nighttime commando operation, which was accompanied by a series of airstrikes. The health ministry in Gaza said at least 67 people had been killed in the strikes. Overall, the ministry says, more than 28,000 people in Gaza have been killed.

After the rescue mission, Mr. Netanyahu said that “only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring about the release of all of our hostages.”

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.