Israel-Gaza latest: Israel's 'declared aim of wiping Gaza from the map is about to be realised', World Court told – Sky News

The UN’s top court has today opened a hearing calling for emergency measures to halt Israel’s onslaught in Rafah – as Israel said it is “wearing Hamas down” there and has sent more troops in.
Thursday 16 May 2024 16:30, UK
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That’s all for our live coverage for the moment. 
Our regular updates will continue tomorrow. 
As detailed in our 14.14 post, the UN’s top court has today opened a hearing calling for emergency measures to halt Israel’s onslaught in Rafah.
As the hearing got under way, judges at the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, were told the Palestinian people faced “ongoing annihilation”.
South Africa wants the court to impose the emergency measures to protect Rafah, a southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians have been sheltering.

It is also asking it to order Israel to allow unimpeded access to Gaza for UN officials, organisations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.
It says Israel has so far ignored and violated earlier court orders.
“The key point today is that Israel’s declared aim of wiping Gaza from the map is about to be realised,” South Africa’s legal representative, Vaughan Lowe, told the panel of judges.
“Further, evidence of appalling crimes and atrocities is literally being destroyed and bulldozed, in effect wiping the slate clean for those who’ve committed these crimes and making a mockery of justice.”
Israel, which has denounced South Africa’s claim that it is violating the 1949 Genocide Convention as baseless, will respond tomorrow. In previous filings it claimed it had stepped up efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza as the ICJ had ordered.

By Alistair Bunkall, Middle East correspondent
When Yoav Gallant recorded a televised statement criticising Israel’s judicial reforms in March 2023, Benjamin Netanyahu sacked him.
A few days later, after massive street protests, the defence minister was reinstated.
Gallant has again taken to the television to criticise Israel’s Prime Minister, this time over the lack of a “day-after plan” for Gaza.
He implied that Netanyahu’s indecision was harming the country’s security and leading to a de-facto military control of Gaza.
The bad-blood between prime minister and defence minister is no secret, but thrusting it into the open in this way was a dramatic move.
That he remains in office, despite calls from the far right to dismiss him, says as much about the weakness of Netanyahu’s hold on power as it does about the logic behind Gallant’s intervention.
On Wednesday night, around the same time Gallant was holding his press conference, five Israeli soldiers were killed and seven seriously wounded in a friendly-fire incident in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.
Jabaliya was one of the first areas Israeli forces entered, following 7 October. Four months ago they announced they had dismantled Hamas battalions in the refugee camp, and yet they have been forced to return in large numbers, because Hamas has regrouped and remains a threat there.
That’s what insurgencies do, but Netanyahu seemingly failed to foresee it. How often, in wars past, have we seen militant forces fade away in the face of a superior army, only to return later, alive to fight another day.
Procrastinating on a plan for civilian rule of Gaza, as Netanyahu has done for months now, has left a vacuum in much of Gaza and so, surprise, surprise, Hamas has returned to areas that Israel had declared clear.
Israeli forces have also returned, this time with experience of the particular battlefield but increasingly frustrated about the political indecision that has brought them back; battle-hardened, but war-weary.
Lacking a clear strategy, and without a vision for the “day-after”, Israeli troops risk being dragged into a war lasting years not months. Maybe that is Netanyahu’s plan after all, but his call for “total victory” is a fantasy – militant groups and terror organisations have an annoying habit of regenerating.
What is needed is an alternative to Hamas, another option for governing Gaza. That would put pressure on the group and create a political pathway for Arab states, and the West, to coalesce around.
Gallant knows it and so, reportedly, do senior Israeli security figures. Gallant is trying to force Netanyahu to make a decision, something he famously avoids, but with Israeli soldiers still dying in Gaza it soon won’t just be his defence minister publicly turning against him. 
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has opened a new hearing today in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in the war in Gaza. 
South Africa is demanding the United Nations’ top court uses emergency measures to press Israel to halt its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter.
According to the latest request, the last preliminary orders previously issued by The Hague-based court were not sufficient to address “a brutal military attack on the sole remaining refuge for the people of Gaza.”
Israel has portrayed Rafah as the last stronghold of the militant group, brushing off warnings from the United States and other allies that any major operation there would be catastrophic for civilians.
South Africa has asked the court to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah; to take measures to ensure unimpeded access for UN officials, humanitarian organisations and journalists to the Gaza Strip; and to report back within one week on how it is meeting these demands.
The country also says Israel must take all the necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies for Palestinians in Gaza.
During hearings earlier this year, Israel strongly denied committing genocidein Gaza and claimed it does all it can to spare civilians and is only targeting Hamas militants.
Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have been displaced since fighting began.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, without distinguishing between civilians and combatants in its count.
The genocide case was initially brought by South Africa three months into the conflict and says that by killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious mental and bodily harm and creating conditions on life “calculated to bring about their physical destruction”, Israel is committing genocide against them.

The hearings this week come after the first round back in January, when the court found it was plausible Israel violated some rights guaranteed to Palestinians in Gaza under the Genocide Convention.
Judges also ordered Israel to take action to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Israel has said it is “wearing Hamas down” as it confirmed more troops will be sent to Rafah.
“This operation will continue as additional forces will enter [the area],” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said. 
“Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops and additional tunnels will be destroyed soon.”
He added: “This activity will intensify – Hamas is not an organisation that can reorganise, it does not have reserve troops, it has no supply stocks and no ability to treat the terrorists that we target. 
“The result is that we are wearing Hamas down.”
The Israeli military has depicted Rafah – Gaza’s southernmost city – as the last Hamas stronghold, brushing off warnings from the US and other allies that any major operation there would be catastrophic for civilians.

Around 600,000 Palestinians have been driven out of the city since the beginning of last week, according to the United Nations. 
Egypt has rejected an Israeli proposal for the two countries to re-open the Rafah crossing and manage its future operation, according to two security sources. 
The plan was presented by the Israeli security service Shin Bet yesterday and included a mechanism for how to manage the crossing after an Israeli withdrawal, the security sources said. 
But Egypt insists the crossing should be managed only by Palestinian authorities.
The Rafah crossing has been pivotal for aid getting into Gaza as well as an exit for medical evacuees. 
It has been shut since 7 May after coming under control of the Israeli military.
Egypt and Israel have since blamed each other for the closure of the border and subsequent blockage of humanitarian relief.
Egypt says Rafah’s closure is due solely to the Israeli military operation. But a spokesperson for the Israeli government said that Egypt had rejected a separate request to open the crossing to Gazan civilians who wish to flee.
At least 35,272 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the attacks on 7 October, the Hamas-run health ministry has said.
It added that a further 79,205 have been wounded.
It is worth noting that the health ministry does not distinguish between civilians and troops in its data.
It is “almost impossible” to distribute aid within Gaza, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.
The OCHA added there are “no regular fuel imports, unstable telecommunication and ongoing fighting”, which is impacting more than two million people. 
German authorities have said they have banned a group that they say showed solidarity with “Palestinian resistance in all forms”.
The interior ministry in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia accused the Palestine Solidarity Duisburg group of spreading antisemitic narratives and searched four properties in connection to the group.
Herbert Reul, interior minister for the state, said the move “sends the right signal” adding that “in many cases nothing other than hatred for Jews is hidden behind solidarity with Palestine, as in the case of the organisation banned today”.
We’ve been reporting this morning that the US military has successfully anchored a pier to a beach in Gaza, with the aim that it will boost aid getting into the enclave. 
Our Middle East correspondent, Alistair Bunkall says the operation is not yet up and running, but it has the potential to be “very, very effective”. 
“It will be a complicated system allowing, mainly ships, to deliver aid to Gaza,” Bunkall says.  
“It will also involve the US military and UN who will deliver it into Gaza itself and the Israeli military who will secure the landing site.

“No US forces went into Gaza this morning, and they are not expected to when the pier is operating, but [the operation] will be able to provide enormous amounts of aid into Gaza.
“The US military think that in the first 48 hours of it operating they will be able to get as much, if not more, aid into Gaza than all the air drops that have taken place so far.
“It could be very, very effective.”
Bunkall says there is already one ship of aid that has been waiting to get into Gaza after leaving Cyprus and at least another two ships that are still on route. 
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