South African Statement on the situation in Rafah

Media Statement


6 May 2024


South African Statement on the situation in Rafah


The Government of South Africa is deeply disturbed about the unfolding developments in Gaza and is horrified by the Israeli military’s announcement that Rafah should be evacuated immediately as it will be operating in the area with “extreme force”.


This intended action amounts to forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza that is unlawful under international law and cannot be justified by any military imperative.


The imminent military offensive in Rafah will erase the last refuge for surviving people in Gaza. Rafah has become a temporary shelter for Palestinians who have been forced to relocate there, with already limited access to food, medical care and other services after months of bombardment by Israel of their homes in the rest of the Gaza Strip.


United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently stated in the UN Security Council that in Gaza, “Israeli military operations have created a humanitarian hellscape. An Israeli operation in Rafah would compound this humanitarian catastrophe.”


On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered an order on South Africa’s request for provisional measures determining that Israel’s actions in Gaza are plausibly genocidal. These provisional measures are directly binding on Israel, which is required pursuant to the Court’s order and to the Genocide Convention itself, to stop all acts by it that are plausibly genocidal. In response to the deteriorating situation in Gaza including in Rafah specifically, the ICJ issued additional provisional measures on 28 March 2024, to prevent Israel from causing irreparable harm to the rights invoked by South Africa under the 1948 Genocide Convention in respect of the ongoing siege of Gaza.


Unfortunately, since the Court’s orders on provisional measures, we have seen the Israeli Government continue its illegal actions in violation of the Court order and international humanitarian law.


The continued illegal military action in Gaza and the announcement of its action in Rafah are indications that the Israeli Government is not only ignoring the Court’s order, but that it also intends to increase its genocidal actions in Gaza.


The international community cannot ignore the grave violations of international law and the UN Charter by the State of Israel. Inaction in the face of these violations and public threats of more violations amounts to ignoring our collective responsibility to protect innocent civilians, including children.


South Africa reiterates that there must be an immediate ceasefire and negotiations to this end must continue. Hamas must release all hostages. Israel must release all political prisoners and urgent full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access must be provided for aid to reach the people of Gaza.




OR Tambo Building

460 Suspenser Road