South Africa yesterday asked the UN’s highest court to order a halt to the Israeli offensive in the Palestinian city of Rafah as part of its case in The Hague in which it accuses Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip and claims that the Palestinian people face a “continuous annihilation.” The hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) come after South Africa last week called for additional emergency measures to protect Rafah. It also asked the court to order Israel to allow unimpeded access to Gaza to UN officials, organizations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and researchers. Israel has so far ignored and violated previous court orders.

“The key point today is that Israel’s stated goal of wiping Gaza off the map is about to be realized,” South Africa’s legal representative, Vaughan Lowe, told the panel of judges. “Furthermore, evidence of crimes and atrocities is literally being destroyed, effectively wiping the slate clean for those who have committed these crimes and making a mockery of justice,” he said.

South African lawyer Max du Plessis said the areas declared safe by Israel in Gaza were a “cruel distortion.” “There is nothing humanitarian in these humanitarian zones,” he stated. “The Israeli genocide of the Palestinians continues through military attacks and induced famine.”

The rulings and orders of the ICJ are binding and without appeal. While the court has no way to enforce them, an order against a country could damage its international reputation and set a legal precedent.