Geneva - South Africa’s 12 February request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning Israel’s decision to extend its military operations in Rafah is welcomed by Euro-Med Monitor, the rights group said in a statement on Wednesday. Rafah is the last remaining shelter for displaced people and survivors of Israel’s ongoing genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the group noted.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasised the significance of the request, which South Africa made as part of its reaction to the horrific events unfolding in the Strip, particularly in the governorate of Rafah, which was home to roughly 280,000 Palestinians prior to the current Israeli attacks. Today, over 1.4 million people, or more than half of the Gaza Strip's population, are living in Rafah Governorate. The majority of these people are children, and they came to Rafah from all over the Strip in response to military evacuation orders from Israel.

The Israeli military attacks against Rafah have already begun, Euro-Med Monitor warned, and include killing, starvation, and deprivation of health services. Israel’s army has killed about 280 people in Rafah—including about 155 women and children—following the issuance of the ICJ’s decision on 26 January, which acknowledged that Israel has violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention. Since then, the Israeli army has completely or partially destroyed about 220 housing units in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the dire humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people in Rafah Governorate have not been met.

According to the rights organisation, South Africa's request should draw attention to Israel’s disregard for all precautionary measures mandated by the ICJ on 26 January. Under these mandates, Israel is required to punish those who instigated the genocide, prevent it from occurring, and take prompt, decisive action to enable the provision of humanitarian aid and essential services, as well as to protect pertinent evidence from destruction.

In its report on 10 February, Euro-Med Monitor stressed that 15 days after the ICJ ordered Israel to take all possible measures to prevent the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army has maintained its rate of killing civilians, depriving them of their most basic human rights, besieging them, and starving them.

The human rights group reported that the Israeli army has killed over 1,864 Palestinians—including 690 children and 441 women—and injured over 2,933 more since the ICJ ruling, bringing the death toll of Israel’s genocidal war against the Gaza Strip, ongoing since 7 October 2023, to 35,880, including 13,880 children and 7,910 women.

Israel’s military has continued to bomb and destroy houses even after its military operations in the southern Gaza Strip were supposedly terminated a few weeks ago, stated the rights group. The Israeli army has blown up at least 43 residential squares since the ICJ ruling, with each square containing between 20 to 50 houses, mainly in the Strip’s southern area of Khan Yunis.

Furthermore, in addition to demolishing all structures in the eastern section of the Strip that were situated between 1,000 and 1,500 metres away from the border fence, the Israeli army has levelled entire residential squares, with the apparent intent to create a buffer zone that would enclose over 15% of the wider Gaza Strip. Euro-Med Monitor confirmed that the Strip does not exceed 365 square kilometres, and is among the most densely populated areas in the world.

Instead of ensuring humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the ICJ ruling, Israel has intensified its efforts to impede aid by a number of means. Due to Israeli restrictions, hundreds of thousands of people in the northern Gaza Strip are experiencing severe and ongoing food shortages. In addition, more than half a million people are facing catastrophic conditions amid increasing numbers of deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition, or related diseases.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor called South Africa’s request a chance for the International Court of Justice to fulfil its mandate of shielding the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip from Israeli acts of genocide and pressuring Israel to implement genuine measures to save lives, such as a ceasefire. The decision should compel Israel to permit displaced individuals to return to their places of residence, stated Euro-Med Monitor, or at the absolute least, should stop Israel from executing its all-encompassing military assault on Rafah.

Should the Rafah attack go through, said the Geneva-based rights group, it would result in an unparalleled humanitarian crisis and endanger the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians.