Hearings on the Israeli military’s entry into Rafah are being held before the highest court of the UN.

In response to a request from South Africa to put pressure on Israel to end its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of the population has sought refuge, the top court of the United Nations will begin two days of hearings on Thursday.

Since initiating proceedings, South Africa has requested the International Court of Justice four times for emergency measures, claiming that Israel’s military behavior in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza amounted to genocide.

The most recent motion claims that the court at The Hague’s prior preliminary decisions were insufficient to deal with “a brutal military attack on the sole remaining refuge for the people of Gaza.”

Israel has dismissed warnings from the US and other partners that any significant action there would be disastrous for civilians and instead has painted Rafah as the jihadist group’s last bastion.

In addition to demanding that Israel leave Rafah, South Africa has requested the court to order Israel to take steps to guarantee that journalists, aid workers, and U.N. representatives can enter the Gaza Strip without hindrance and to provide a report to the court within a week detailing how it is complying with these demands.

Israel vehemently denied committing genocide in Gaza during hearings earlier this year, claiming that it is solely focusing on Hamas militants and that it is doing everything in its power to spare civilians. It claims that it is challenging to prevent civilian casualties because to Hamas’ strategy of integrating into civilian areas.

Judges in January gave Israel orders to cease any acts of murder, death, or devastation in Gaza, but they did not put an end to the military campaign that has decimated the Palestinian enclave.

In a subsequent ruling in March, the court mandated that Israel take action to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the opening of additional land crossings to facilitate the entry of gasoline, food, water, and other supplies.

Since the war started, the majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been forced to flee their homes.

On October 7, Hamas launched an offensive on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people and the kidnapping of roughly 250 more. Over 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, have been killed in the war, without distinguishing between civilians and combatants in its count.

South Africa, whose legal campaign is based on concerns that are fundamental to its identity, began proceedings in December 2023. Its ruling party, the African National Congress, has long drawn parallels between its own experience under the apartheid system of white minority rule, which kept the majority of Black people in their “homelands,” and Israel’s practices in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. 1994 saw the end of apartheid.

Egypt declared its intention to intervene in the case on Sunday. Israeli military activities “constitute a flagrant violation of international law, humanitarian law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 regarding the protection of civilians during wartime,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although a number of nations have also expressed their intention to intervene, only Colombia, Nicaragua, and Libya have submitted official requests.