South Africa accuses Israel of contempt for World Court order

An injured Palestinian is taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, following Israeli attacks on 8 March.

Ali Hamad APA images

Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza has entered its sixth month with around 31,000 Palestinian fatalities recorded since 7 October and no ceasefire on the horizon at the start of Ramadan.

At least 25 Palestinians have starved to death in Gaza due to Israel’s engineered famine, among them 18 children.

The children include a baby girl and a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

“The true death toll due to starvation is feared to be much higher as many Palestinians, particularly in northern Gaza, face famine and are almost entirely cut off from the limited humanitarian aid entering Gaza through the southern Rafah crossing,” according to Defense for Children International-Palestine.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah, where more than a million displaced people are concentrated along the border with Egypt. Israel bombed one of the largest residential high-rises in Rafah early Saturday, displacing dozens of families and raising fears that a ground invasion in the area may be imminent.

“Any ground assault on Rafah would incur massive loss of life and would heighten the risk of further atrocity crimes,” the UN human rights office said on Friday. “This must not be allowed to happen.”

South Africa asks ICJ for additional orders

Last Thursday, South Africa filed its latest application to the International Court of Justice, urging the principal judicial organ of the United Nations to issue additional and amended provisional measures in light of new facts in its genocide complaint against Israel.

The court declined to issue additional provisional measures after an application made by South Africa in mid-February, the judges stating that the “perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the court in its order of 26 January.”

In its application last week, South Africa states that “the situation then ‘perilous’ is now so terrifying as to be unspeakable, as described by United Nations humanitarian chiefs, justifying – and indeed demanding – the indication of further provisional measures of protection.”

South Africa called for a response “to Israel’s continuing violations of and contempt for” the court’s interim ruling issued in late January, which found that Israel was plausibly carrying out a genocide in Gaza and ordered it to halt all genocidal acts.

Their provisional measures specifically order Israel to: stop killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to Palestinians in Gaza; prevent and punish incitement to commit genocide; take immediate and effective measures to enable basic services and humanitarian assistance; and prevent the destruction of and ensure the preservation of evidence.

The court also ordered Israel to submit a report to the tribunal on its compliance with the provisional measures within one month.

Israel submitted its report just hours before the court’s deadline, according to media reports, but its contents have not been made public.

Unnamed sources told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz “that the Israeli report is expected to be short, dealing mainly with evidence that Israel is fulfilling its humanitarian obligations to Gazans and is complying with the provisional measures ordered by the court in its interim decision.”

“The report is also expected to state that Israel investigates suspected war crimes and cases of incitement advocating harming civilians in Gaza,” Haaretz added.

If the material presented by Israel to the ICJ during its preliminary hearing on 12 January is any indication, much of it will be inaccurate and misleading, as was determined in an analysis by the independent research group Forensic Architecture.

“Existential risk”

“​​The extreme gravity of the situation facing Palestinian men, women, children and babies, and the existential risk the Palestinian people in Gaza as a part of the Palestinian national or [ethnic] group face as a result of Israel’s genocidal military campaign demands further action by the court,” South Africa argues in its latest application.

South Africa compares its intervention with a similar one made by Bosnia in 1993, in which the tribunal was told that “this will be the last opportunity that this court shall have to save both the people and state of Bosnia and Herzegovina from extermination and annihilation by means of genocide … God will record your response to our request for the rest of eternity.”

“South Africa fears that this application may be the last opportunity that this court shall have to save the Palestinian people in Gaza already dying of starvation, and now ‘one step’ from famine,” it states.

In the Bosnia case, the court declined to order additional provisional measures. In the two years that followed, South Africa states, “approximately 7,336 Bosnians in the so-called ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica had been slaughtered, in what this court retrospectively determined to have been a genocide.”

The cost in human lives will likely be even higher in Gaza should the status quo persist.

Since the court’s preliminary ruling was made on 26 January, Israel killed around 4,550 Palestinians and wounded more than 7,550, “bringing the grim totals to 30,631 killed and 72,043 injured,” South Africa states in its application.

“Israel has not changed its conduct materially or at all pursuant to the order – it has instead doubled-down on its genocidal aims and acts” and thus shown its contempt for the court, South Africa adds, noting that “senior Israeli officials have poured scorn on the court and its order.”

South Africa requests in its application that the court order an immediate halt to “all fighting and hostilities” and demand “that all hostages and detainees [be] released immediately.”

South Africa also calls for a provisional measure ordering parties to the Genocide Convention to comply with their obligations. It also asks the court to make more specific calls in regard to its earlier order on Israel to take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.

In its application, South Africa identifies new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza, including the starvation deaths of children, predicting “that they will increase exponentially and not linearly in the absence of a cessation of military activities and a lifting of the blockade.”

South Africa also notes Israel’s “deliberate attempts” to shut down the work of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), “on whom the vast majority of besieged, displaced and starving Palestinian men, women, children and babies depend for their survival.”

Israel has also seriously hindered the work of humanitarian agencies by blocking aid, targeting and killing humanitarian workers, destroying Palestinian food production, and cutting off Gaza’s north, reducing Palestinians there to “eating animal feed, bird seed and leaves, unfit for human consumption.”

South Africa also observes that Israel has attacked crowds of desperate Palestinians attempting to access humanitarian aid, including the Flour Massacre of 118 people gathered for food assistance on 29 February.

Litany of violations

Palestinian civil society groups have meanwhile cataloged myriad Israeli violations since the International Court of Justice’s 26 January interim ruling.

This includes Israeli forces killing 14 journalists as of 5 March – four slain on the same day – as well as two lawyers working for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights who lost their lives in separate strikes on residential buildings, their families killed alongside them.

In another of the deadliest attacks during the last five months, Israeli warplanes and warships repeatedly struck Rafah, in southern Gaza, on 17 February, “killing 83 Palestinians, including 27 children, amongst them displaced Palestinians who were sleeping in their tents,” according to the Palestinian human rights and advocacy groups.

Days earlier, Israeli troops ordered a Palestinian detainee, Jamal al-Din Muhammad Abu al-Ola, to enter Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis while handcuffed to tell those inside to evacuate.

“As he was walking outside the hospital, still inside the gates, he was killed by an Israeli soldier in front of his mother,” according to the Palestinian groups. “The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that Israeli snipers killed another three Palestinians at the hospital on the same day.”

Israel has also escalated its attacks on Gaza’s health sector since the International Court of Justice ruling, besieging Nasser Medical Complex and Al-Amal Hospital, also in Khan Younis, for more than a month.

At least 21 Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers in the vicinity of Nasser Medical Complex on 9 February. Troops shelled and stormed the hospital on 15 February, arresting medical and administrative staff.

The World Health Organization declared that the hospital – the backbone of the health system in southern Gaza – was no longer functional on 18 February. Eight intensive care patients died due to a lack of oxygen during the siege, during which sewage water flooded the hospital.

Doctors arrested at Al-Amal Hospital were tortured by Israeli forces, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Israeli artillery fire disabled the humanitarian group’s core communication system with its field teams on 22 February.

Twenty-five people were killed in 40 attacks on the hospital between 22 January and 22 February and the facility is now incapacitated, according to the UN.

Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in late February that “Al-Amal Hospital has been at the epicenter of military operations in Khan Younis for over a month.”

Israeli troops blocked a World Health Organization-led convoy of patients, including a pregnant woman and a mother and a newborn, who were evacuated from the hospital for seven hours on 25 February, despite prior coordination with the military.

“The Israeli military forced patients and staff out of ambulances and stripped all paramedics of their clothes,” Laerke said, and detained three Palestine Red Crescent Society medics, two of whom were still being held by Israel as of 27 February.

Humanitarian missions attacked

Since the World Court’s interim ruling, Israel has killed paramedics on missions coordinated with the military and families attempting to evacuate to safer areas.

On 29 January, Israeli forces massacred a Palestinian family in their car as they attempted to evacuate their neighborhood in Gaza City. Six-year-old Hind Rajab, the sole survivor, was on the phone with the Palestine Red Crescent Society for two hours until they were able to coordinate with the Israeli military to dispatch an ambulance to come to the child’s rescue.

Twelve days later, however, the girl’s body was found alongside those of her relatives in the car and the bodies of the two paramedics, Yousif Zeino and Ahmad al-Madhoun, were found in the ambulance that had come to her assistance.

In late February, Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza, already reduced to a fraction of its former capacity, said it was no longer functioning after running out of fuel and that four malnourished children being treated at the facility had died and an infant had died after inhaling toxic gas from Israeli bombardment:
With the Gaza health system all but dismantled, “hospitals in Rafah are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with needs,” according to the World Health Organization, which says that its “response is significantly hindered due to denials of missions and insufficient humanitarian access and corridors, both inside the strip and from outside.”

Marking the genocide’s sixth month, three Palestinian human rights groups – Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – said that the continuation of these “horrific crimes” is a result of the impunity lavished upon Israel by the US and European states, exempting it from the rules of international law.

The groups said that a tour by researchers following the Israeli military’s withdrawal of ground forces from several neighborhoods in central Khan Younis revealed that “almost no house or shop … was spared, and the features of the area were completely changed as a result of the widespread and wanton destruction.”

Many bodies were recovered from the streets and near homes, including that of a man and child wearing the white uniform that Israeli troops force detained Palestinians to wear, indicating that they were executed in Israeli custody.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has meanwhile documented the killing of a Palestinian man in Gaza City who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military vehicle after he was interrogated and while his hands were bound.

The rights group, citing witnesses, said that the vehicle crushed the body of the man from the legs towards his head while he was still alive. “The victim’s mutilated body and the surrounding area bear obvious signs that a military bulldozer or tank was present,” according to Euro-Med Monitor, which said that the incident occurred in late February.

In late January, Israeli troops in a tank ran over a Palestinian family as they were sleeping in a caravan in Khan Younis. A man and his daughter were killed and his wife and four other children injured.

Another family survived when their tent along the shore in Khan Younis was run over by an Israeli tank on 20 February.

Euro-Med Monitor said that Israeli troops have used military vehicles to destroy civilian property, particularly cars, during ground incursions throughout Gaza as part of a wider effort “to dehumanize every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip … and normalize the crimes being committed against them.”

Beatings and torture

The human rights group has also obtained testimonies from Palestinians in Gaza who were tortured while in Israeli detention, including 21-year-old Ramadan Shamlakh, who was beaten and abducted during a raid on his home in Gaza City.

Troops used Shamlakh as a human shield as they stormed another building, beat him again, and mutilated his body. He was tortured for hours, “leaving deep wounds and scars on my face, particularly under my eyes, my chest, and my fingers and nails,” he said.

The young man was ordered to leave the building where he was interrogated wearing only his underwear. He was stopped at a checkpoint on Salah al-Din Road and held there for 30 minutes before being let go.

Palestinians in the Nuseirat area of central Gaza found Shamlakh and gave him clothes and took him to a hospital for treatment.

Euro-Med Monitor said that another Palestinian who wished to remain anonymous was also mutilated by troops who abducted him from his home in Gaza City.

One of the soldiers used a knife to cut into the man’s face, hand and back while repeating the words “we will eliminate you.”

Another Palestinian testified to being subjected to an hour of torture including beatings after troops stormed Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City, where he had sought shelter.

“There were five soldiers working in shifts, one for questioning and four for torture,” the survivor said, recalling that one of the soldiers grabbed his neck and threatened to strangle him for not admitting to belonging to Hamas.




There is something absurd about a world that encourages a pissant little country to slaughter millions in territory they illegally occupy and pretend otherwise


It seems there is only one more depravity Israel has denied herself in this descent into hell. Either through lack of will of opportunities she has not yet built the gas chambers to speed her toward her goals. Is it only then that our supine corrupted complicit governments will finally say enough? And what is Israel took that final step, what would be the Western response, more tut tuts or perhaps a temporary cutting off of military aid? One thing for sure is that no matter what Israel concocts in her final witches brew, nothing meaningful will be done to stop her. The entire free world has lost its soul.


This article is hard to read, but everyone should read it. How do people commit such horrendous crimes of cruelty, murder, torture and starvation, while the world looks on and many encourage these war crimes. Thank you for reporting this. I pray for peace and the end to this genocide. All it would take is one call from the US to stop Israel and open the gates to humanitarian aid. Just one call.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.