The Hague: South Africa has urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Israel to halt its assault on Rafah as part of its case accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday.

South Africa, which filed its case in January over Israel's war on Gaza, is seeking additional emergency measures over its offensive on Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip where more than one million displaced Palestinians had sought shelter from Israeli attacks on other parts of the enclave.

It told the court in The Hague on Thursday that the Palestinian people are facing "ongoing annihilation" and the assault on Rafah was "part of the endgame in which Gaza is utterly destroyed".

Israel is pressing on with its attacks in Rafah despite "explicit warnings" that they could carry "genocidal" consequences, South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said.

Israel, which has rejected South Africa's claim that it is violating the 1949 Genocide Convention as baseless, will respond on Friday, Al Jazeera reported.

Minutes before the court hearings opened, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the widely criticised operation in Rafah "will continue as additional forces will enter" the area.

Rafah is a tiny, overcrowded city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have taken shelter in tents and are facing the rapid spread of diseases and a severe lack of food and clean water. The only hospital in the area has shut down, leaving only a small facility that has been overwhelmed, Al Jazeera reported.

Judges at the ICJ have previously issued provisional measures, ordering Israel to take actions to limit humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

Among those provisions was for Israel to ensure basic food supplies arrive without delay to the Palestinians in Gaza, all of whom are suffering from severe hunger--some have even faced famine--as a result of Israel's total siege.

This month, the Israeli army seized and shut down the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, a vital entry point for humanitarian aid. Aid agencies have warned that the closure has significantly hindered their operations.

Because it is Gaza's primary hub for humanitarian assistance, "if Rafah falls, so too does Gaza," South Africa said in a written submission to the court.

"The thwarting of humanitarian aid cannot be seen as anything but the deliberate snuffing-out of Palestinian lives. Starvation to the point of famine," lawyer Adila Hassim said.

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