By Olivia Rosane / Common Dreams

Egypt announced on Sunday that it would join South Africa’s case before the International Court of Justice causing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

The announcement from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs came nearly a week after Israel seized the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the day after the Israel Defense Forces issued new evacuation orders for Rafah and the north of Gaza. It also comes as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that around 300,000 people had fled Rafah in the last week and the death toll reported by the Gaza Health Ministry surpassed 35,000.

“The submission… comes in light of the worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and the continued perpetration of systematic practices against the Palestinian people, including direct targeting of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure in the strip, and pushing Palestinians to flee,” the Egyptian ministry said in the statement explaining its decision.

South Africa filed its case against Israel in late December 2023, accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention as it waged its war on Gaza.

In a preliminary ruling in January, the ICJ determined that it was plausible that Israel was conducting a genocide in Gaza and ordered it to “take all measures within its power” to avoid doing so.

In its statement, Egypt’s foreign ministry called on Israel “to comply with its obligations as the occupying power and to implement the provisional measures issued by the ICJ, which require ensuring access to humanitarian and relief aid in a manner that meets the needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

Israel cut off aid when it seized the Rafah border crossing, making it even harder for Gazans to access essential goods like food and fuel, though Israel said on Sunday it had opened a new crossing for aid in the north.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also repeated a call for the U.N. Security Council and the international community to take action to stop violations in Gaza and Israel’s attack on Rafah.

“Tel Aviv is forcing Palestinians to be contestants in its murderous game show as it flouts international law and basic human decency.”

Egypt is the third country after Colombia and Turkey to request to join South Africa’s case. However, it’s request is especially significant for Israel, Alon Liel, former director of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told Al Jazeera. Liel said that Egypt was the “cornerstone” of Israel’s standing in the Middle East since the two countries signed a treaty in 1979.

“With Egypt joining South Africa now in The Hague, it’s a real diplomatic punch. Israel would have to take it very seriously,” Liel said. “Israel has to… listen to the world—not only to the Israeli public opinion asking now for revenge.”

Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza began October 7 in response to a Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,100 people and captured around 250 hostages. Before that attack, Israel had blockaded Gaza for 16 years.

Egypt’s action on Sunday accompanied warnings and expressions of alarm from humanitarian workers, diplomats, and journalists as Israel escalated its campaign in Gaza over the weekend.

“Over the past 48 hours, Israel has intensified its attacks in Gaza as it orders Palestinians in the south to move north and the north to move south,” journalist and Intercept co-founderJeremy Scahill wrote on social media Sunday. “Tel Aviv is forcing Palestinians to be contestants in its murderous game show as it flouts international law and basic human decency.”

UNRWA on Saturday posted photos of bomb-damaged schools in Khan Younis to which displaced families were now returning following the new evacuation orders.

“The classrooms are torched. Walls are blown out. There is rubble everywhere,” UNRWA said. “This situation is unfolding under the world’s watch. Enough is enough.”

Responding to the images, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini wrote, “Since the war began, most people in Gaza have moved multiple times: on average once a month. They desperately sought safety that they never found. Some have no choice but to stay in bombed-out UNRWA shelters.”

“The claim of ‘safe zones’ is false and misleading,” Lazzarini continued. “No place is safe in Gaza. Period.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement Sunday, “A full-scale offensive on Rafah cannot take place.”

“I can see no way that the latest evacuation orders, much less a full assault, in an area with an extremely dense presence of civilians, can be reconciled with the binding requirements of international humanitarian law and with the two sets of binding provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice,” Turk said.

However, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) argued on social media Sunday that Israel’s actions in Rafah already comprised “a large-scale military attack, and not a limited operation as described by Israel.”

The group said that Israel had killed at least 116 people—among them 22 women and 38 children—since IDF forces entered Rafah one week ago.

In addition to stepping up its campaign in Rafah, the IDF has increased its attacks on parts of northern Gaza, including Jabalaya, the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

“We have been hearing from eyewitnesses on the ground, in that very densely populated area, that military tanks are surrounding evacuation centers and residential buildings,” Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Abu Azzoum reported.

PCHR concluded: “In sum, Israel is continuing its genocidal military campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza unabated. We reiterate our call for an immediate cease-fire. This genocide must end now.”

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Olivia Rosane

Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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