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Palestinians wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 13.IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/Reuters

South Africa has sent an urgent request to the International Court of Justice to seek a new emergency order against Israel’s military offensive in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

The world court in The Hague, the highest United Nations judicial body, issued a ruling last month that ordered Israel to take steps to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and to ensure a supply of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory. The emergency orders were a response to South Africa’s court application, which alleged that Israel is committing genocidal acts in Gaza.

Less than three weeks later, Israel is in “serious and irreparable breach” of the world court’s orders and the 1948 Genocide Convention, according to a South African government statement on Tuesday.

The government said it is “gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large scale killing, harm and destruction.” Rafah, it said, is “the last refuge for surviving people in Gaza.”

It said the court has the power at any time to examine the circumstances of a case and to issue emergency orders or to require compliance with existing orders.

South Africa sent the formal request to the court on Monday, and the government says it expects the request “will receive the necessary urgency in light of the daily death toll in Gaza.” It is not clear, however, whether South Africa is seeking a new hearing from the court, or a new order without a hearing.

In its ruling last month, after two days of hearings and arguments by both sides, the court did not grant South Africa’s request for an order requiring an immediate ceasefire by Israel’s forces. It did, however, agree that South Africa had plausible grounds to argue that Israel was breaching the Genocide Convention, and it agreed to listen to the merits of the full genocide case, which could take years.

Israel has repeatedly denied the genocide allegations and says it is respecting international law in its Gaza bombing campaign and its siege of the territory.

More than a million Palestinians – about half of Gaza’s population – have sought refuge in Rafah, near the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, after heavy Israeli bombing in the northern and central parts of the territory.

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People evacuating from a tent camp ride in the back of a truck with their belongings as they flee Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 13.MOHAMMED ABED/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced plans for a ground assault on Rafah. Several countries, including Canada and Britain, have voiced concern about the planned attack.

“The operation would be devastating and is devastating to Palestinians and all those seeking refuge, including foreign nationals and including Canadians,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told journalists on Monday.

“They’re human beings,” she said. “They exist and we see them. What the Netanyahu government is asking them to do – which is to leave again – is unacceptable, because they have nowhere to go, and so that’s why we need right now for the violence to stop.”

A separate international court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court, is also examining Israel’s military actions in Gaza and the West Bank. The ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, said on Monday that he is deeply concerned by Israel’s bombardment of Rafah and its planned assault on the city.

“All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning,” Mr. Khan said in his statement.

“This has been my consistent message, including from Ramallah last year. Since that time, I have not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel. As I have repeatedly emphasized, those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my Office takes action pursuant to its mandate.”

Israel is not a member of the ICC and has rejected its jurisdiction, but Palestine is recognized as an ICC member.

Talks involving the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar on a Gaza truce ended without a breakthrough on Tuesday as calls grew for Israel to hold back on a planned assault.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi conducted talks with CIA Director William Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani aimed at reaching a Gaza truce, protecting civilians and delivering more aid into the enclave, Egypt’s state information service said.

In a statement on its website, it cited a “keenness to continue consultation and coordination” on the key issues, indicating that no breakthrough was made.

The Egyptian statement made no mention of Israel. The Israeli delegation left Cairo for home, a Reuters report said. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel has vowed to fight on, for many months if necessary, until it eradicates Hamas.

With reports from Reuters and Kristy Kirkup in Ottawa.

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