South Africa Requests Further Provisional Measures Against Israel

The government of South Africa has filed an “urgent request” with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requesting a series of provisional measures to be instated against Israel by the court. The provisional measures were requested as the situation in Rafah continues to worsen as Israel seemingly prepares for a full assault upon the city.

Rapid Deterioration

South Africa’s emergency measures have been requested as the situation in Rafah continues to decline by the hour.

Over the past several days, Israel has launched a bombing campaign on areas throughout Rafah, concentrated in the east, where they had ordered the evacuation of civilians. Approximately 100,000 people within the evacuation zone were given only 15 hours before the bombing campaign began. Many were unable to evacuate, and bombings have reportedly led to numerous civilian casualties.

Soon after, Israeli troops seized the Rafah crossing, a border crossing point between Gaza and Egypt. The Rafah border crossing is of vital importance to Gaza, as it has been the primary entry point of humanitarian aid to Gaza throughout the war. After Israel took control of the crossing, it has remained closed. The Kerem Shalom crossing, on the Israeli border with Gaza, has been opening and closing on several occasions as Israel claims Hamas has launched attacks upon the crossing. Hamas, and opposing sources, have claimed that the attacks are merely in the area, not on the crossing itself.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) will run out of food in Gaza by Saturday, May 11th, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA further added that approximately 30,000 people were leaving the city of Rafah per day in the search of safety, oftentimes only with what they have on their person as humanitarian agencies have ran out of basic supplies to give them.

Rafah was previously established to be a ‘safe zone’ by Israel, and as such has become host to approximately 1.4 million people. Rafah, although subject to bombings throughout the course of the war, has remained comparatively intact to the rest of Gaza. This includes Rafah’s hospitals, which although not fully functioning, were among the largest left in Gaza that were partially functioning. In recent days one of such hospitals, the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital (Rafah’s largest) was abandoned on Tuesday after staff and patients received evacuation orders from Israel on Monday. The abandonment of al-Najjar leaves just 11 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals partially functioning. Rafah’s other two hospitals are getting quickly overwhelmed.

The collapse of the humanitarian situation in southern Gaza spells trouble for the whole strip. The northern regions of Gaza were already reported to be entering, or having entered, a famine, while the south was determined to be at risk. With aid being severely restricted to the south now as well as the north, the south is likely to enter famine as well, unless the humanitarian situation changes substantially.

Israel has established what they call a “humanitarian zone” in Al-Mawasi, on a portion of the coast of Gaza, as well as in portions of Khan Younis. However, much of this humanitarian zone has been subject to operations throughout the course of the war, meaning many of the buildings there are already damaged or destroyed. Furthermore, Al-Mawasi has within it a sand dune that is considered uninhabitable, further restricting the viability of the area as a legitimate safe zone. Civilians ordered to evacuate Rafah were ordered to evacuate to the Al-Mawasi safezone.

Israel’s assault upon Rafah has been highly controversial due to the high civilian presence in the area, as well as the importance of Rafah in facilitating humanitarian aid in Gaza. The operation has been opposed by many nations, including the US who is now delaying arms shipments to Israel over the matter.

Notably, Israel’s war cabinet today unanimously approved the expansion of operations in Rafah, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

Provisional Measures

South Africa is seeking several provisional measures against Israel. Due to the urgency of the matter, they have requested that the court make a ruling by May 17th, so within a week.

The provisional measures sought build upon South Africa’s wider case against Israel, which accuses them of carrying out genocide in Gaza. The court ruled there was the “plausibility” of genocide (not a confirmation nor denial of South Africa’s accusations), and instated provisional measures against Israel in January ordering Israel to take measures to prevent genocide in Gaza as well as facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza, and again in March to expand humanitarian aid into Gaza as the court acknowledged that “famine was setting in” within Gaza.

A photo of a portion of Israel’s legal team in the ICJ (Photo from Reuters).

Notably, South Africa had initially sought provisional measures to halt Israel’s war entirely, however this was denied by the court.

The new provisional measures are listed below:

  1. The State of Israel shall immediately withdraw and cease its military offensive in the Rafah Governorate.
  2. The State of Israel shall immediately take all effective measures to ensure and facilitate
    the unimpeded access to Gaza of United Nations and other officials engaged in the provision of humanitarian aid and assistance to the population of Gaza, as well as fact-finding missions, internationally mandated bodies or officials, investigators, and journalists, in order to assess and record conditions on the ground in Gaza and enable the effective preservation and retention of evidence, and shall ensure that its military does not act to prevent such access, provision, preservation or retention.
  3. The State of Israel shall submit an open report to the Court: (a) on all measures taken to give effect to these provisional measures within one week as from the date of this Order; and (b) on all measures taken to give effect to all previous provisional measures indicated by the Court within one month as from the date of this Order.

Israel has been accused of ignoring the previous measures instated against them.

Notably, although the ICJ’s rulings are technically binding, they have no means of enforcement, and their rulings have been ignored by numerous different nations before.

An Expansion of the Case

Also today was Libya’s declaration of intervention in South Africa’s case against Israel, Libya has stated that it “believes that acts and omissions by Israel are of genocidal character,” and has declared its intervention in the case on the side of South Africa.

Libya’s intervention comes just a few days after Colombia declared their intervention on May 5th. Colombia has been one of Israel’s most vocal critics over the course of the war, and has suspended arms purchases from Israel as well as severed relations with the nation, citing their “genocidal” conduct in the war.

Colombia’s declaration of intervention is a 75 page long document, which details Israel’s alleged violations of the genocide convention, Colombia’s legal basis for filing the intervention, and more. The entire document may be read here.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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