In Gaza, 1.1 million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition

The South African government took a decisive step in trying to mitigate the humanitarian crisis plaguing the Gaza Strip, by asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for urgent additional measures against Israel. The request, released this Wednesday (6), highlights the “widespread hunger” faced by Palestinians in the region and suggests an immediate ceasefire to stop the suffering and guarantee the safety of the population, especially children.

In the request, South Africa says it is “compelled to return to the Court in light of new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza — particularly the situation of widespread famine — linked to the continuing and shocking violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide by the State of Israel and its continuous and manifest violations of the provisional measures of this Court”.

South Africa bases its request on alleged violations of the measures in force by Israel, alleging that such actions put the lives and dignity of the inhabitants of Gaza at risk. In an official statement, the South African Presidency expressed concern about the urgency of the situation and urged the ICJ to act quickly to prevent an imminent tragedy.

South Africa also requests that such a decision be made without a hearing, given the “extreme urgency of the situation” and to “urgently guarantee the safety of 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, including one million children”.

Scourge of hunger

“The threat of total famine has now materialized. The court needs to act now to stop the impending tragedy, immediately and effectively ensuring that the rights protected by the Genocide Convention are respected,” the statement highlighted.

In addition to calling for an immediate ceasefire, South Africa requests that Israel adopt urgent and effective measures to ensure the provision of basic services and essential humanitarian assistance in Gaza, where the situation has reached alarming proportions.

The new petition, which also calls for a ceasefire, cites statements from the United Nations stating that the local population is “facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever seen,” with “93% of the population in Gaza facing critical levels of hunger, with insufficient food and high levels of malnutrition”, and with “one in four households in a catastrophic situation”.

“Palestinians in Gaza no longer face the ‘immediate risk of death from starvation.’ At least 15 Palestinian children, including babies, in Gaza have already starved to death in the last week, and the real numbers are likely higher,” the petition says. “These deaths are ‘man-made, predictable and completely preventable. And it is predicted that they will increase exponentially without the cessation of military activities and the lifting of the blockade [militar]”.

Example of genocide

This request comes amid a lawsuit filed by South Africa at the ICJ against Israel, accusing the Israeli State of genocide in relation to the military operation launched in Gaza last year. Although Israel refutes the accusations, the process continues and has the support of several countries and international institutions.

In its initial allegations, South Africa detailed incidents that, according to its lawyers, fit the definitions of genocide, in accordance with the terms of the UN convention on the subject, adopted in 1948, after the Holocaust. The process, which could take years to be judged, has the support of a dozen countries — including Brazil — and institutions such as the Organization of Islamic Countries and the Arab League.

The ICJ ruling, however, did not include the South Africans’ call for a ceasefire, but required Israel to take measures to prevent genocide and improve access to humanitarian aid in Gaza.

According to the Court, Israel should take measures to prevent the practice and public defense of the crime of genocide, implement actions to improve access to humanitarian aid in Gaza and present, at the end of February, a report highlighting what has been done.

While South Africa’s petition awaits a response from the ICJ, the world is watching with apprehension the developments in the region, where dozens of Palestinians have died in recent incidents, further worsening the already precarious situation of the Gaza population. The ICJ has not indicated when or if it will respond to the South African petition, but the urgency of the situation requires immediate action to prevent further humanitarian tragedies.

Last month, South Africa had once again requested additional measures, centered on an explicit veto of the military operation that the Israelis plan to launch against Rafah, where most of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are located. The request was denied by the Court.

The request also comes days after dozens of Palestinians died during a chaotic humanitarian aid delivery near Gaza City, an incident in which Israeli soldiers are accused of deliberately shooting at unarmed civilians. The Court has not indicated when or if it will hear the South African petition.


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