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South Africa has told a UN court the situation in Gaza is at a “new and horrific stage” – as it tries to convince it to order a ceasefire and stop Israel’s operation in Rafah.

It was the third time the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has held hearings on Gaza since December, when South Africa first accused Israel of genocide.

“Seven months ago South Africa could not have imagined that Gaza would be largely wiped off the map,” the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, told judges.

Israel denies allegations of genocide and says it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties as it seeks to destroy Hamas following its devastating October attack.

However, South Africa believes Israel’s military operation has far exceeded acceptable self-defence.

“Israel’s actions in Rafah are part of the end game. This is the last step in the destruction of Gaza,” lawyer Vaughan Lowe told the 15-judge panel at The Hague.

South Africa called Israel’s offensive in the southern city a “brutal military attack on the sole remaining refuge for the people of Gaza”, and said the court’s previous orders had made no difference.

It was the third time the court has held a session on Gaza at South Africa's request. Pic: Reuters
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It was the third time the court has held a session on Gaza at South Africa’s request. Pic: Reuters

Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

Ambassador Madonsela urged judges to order Israel to “totally and unconditionally withdraw” from the Gaza Strip.

More than a million people are estimated to have originally fled to Rafah from the destruction in northern parts of Gaza.

But as Israeli attacks in Rafah intensify, about half have now left for other areas – including to bombed-out homes they previously abandoned.

Palestinians sheltering in a school prepare to flee Rafah. Pic: Reuters
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Palestinians sheltering in a school prepare to flee Rafah on 13 May. Pic: Reuters


In January, the ICJ ordered Israel to do all it could to guard against deaths, destruction and any acts of genocide but didn’t tell it to end the fighting.

Another order in March said the country should take steps to improve the humanitarian situation – with many Gazans also dealing with chronic food shortages.

Thursday’s court hearing came as the US said it had anchored a floating pier to receive much-needed aid at a Gaza Strip beach.

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Military analyst Michael Clarke explains how the pier will work

The United Nations welcomed the move but said land entry points were a faster way to get aid in.

Israel’s operation in Rafah has virtually halted aid via the southern border and famine is a “clear and present danger”, said UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths.

“Stocks of food which were in place already in southern Gaza are running out. I think we’re talking about almost none left,” he told Reuters news agency.

“And so the humanitarian operation is stuck, it’s completely stuck. We can’t do what we want to do.”

Read more:
Satellite images show speed and scale of Rafah evacuation
Israel orders residents from more areas of Rafah to evacuate
Eyewitness: Israeli protesters block aid going into Gaza

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Israeli protesters block Gaza aid trucks

Israel has blamed UN agencies for not distributing aid more efficiently and creating backlogs of supplies.

It says it had killed more than 100 Hamas fighters since it began a ground operation in Rafah last week – which officials say is intended to destroy the group’s presence there and rescue hostages.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshan said on Thursday they had also found tunnel shafts under and near the city’s border crossing with Egypt.

Many Western countries warned of devastating consequences if Israel expanded operations in Rafah, with President Biden saying the US wouldn’t provide some weapons if it went ahead.

So far, it doesn’t appear to be a full-scale invasion but the UN says hundreds of thousands of people have still fled.

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The offensive could escalate, however, after the Israeli defence minister visited on Wednesday and warned “additional forces will enter” and “we are wearing Hamas down”.

Gaza’s health ministry says more than 35,000 people have died so far, while about 1,200 were murdered in the 7 October Hamas attack that triggered the war.

Several hundred Israelis were also taken hostage, with immense pressure at home for the government to agree a ceasefire deal to free them.

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directly called on his US and Chinese counterparts to join his latest summit for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy announced a “global peace summit”, co-hosted by Switzerland, starting on 15 June.

He claimed 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance.

But he said: “I am appealing to the global leaders of the world who are still outside the global efforts of the global peace summit.

“To President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China, we do not want the UN charter to be burned.

“Please show your leadership in advancing the peace.”

Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

He added that it must be “real peace – not just a pause in the strikes” after various ceasefire breaches by the Russians.

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Finally, he urged: “The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled.”

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Shopping mall hit by strike in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Printworks and shopping centre targeted this week

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with a pre-war population of 1.5 million people, is close to the frontline, and has been consistently targeted since the initial invasion in February 2022.

On Thursday, its ‘Vivat’ printworks, which is the country’s largest, was hit by missiles, killing seven people, and destroying an estimated 50,000 books. A further 21 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

On Saturday, a strike on a shopping centre killed six people, injured 40, and left a further 16 unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Elsewhere in the city, an additional 11 people were injured as a result of strikes, including a 13-year-old boy.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor there said four residents died as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

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Crowded DIY stores hit by strikes
Ukrainians training without firing due to shortages
Putin thanks Xi for his Ukraine efforts

Mr Zelenskyy warned a new Russian offensive is being planned northwest of Kharkiv.

Ukrainians and military analysts have repeatedly warned of depleting weapon supplies on the frontline.

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Earlier this month the US agreed to a further $2bn (£1.6bn) in military support for Ukraine.

It has consistently resisted calls to send US troops there, in line with NATO’s refusal for direct involvement in the conflict.

China has resisted calls by NATO and its member states to take a direct stance against Russia in support of Ukraine.

President Xi hosted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a show of “friendship” earlier this month.

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza for the first time in months.

The barrage of rockets set off air raid sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the area of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion.

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after ‘chain of explosions’

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after 'chain of explosions'

At least six newborn babies have died after a fire broke out at a children’s hospital in India, according to reports.

Firefighters said they carried 12 newborns out of the centre in the Vivek Vihar district of east New Delhi late on Saturday night, but five of them died due to smoke inhalation.

Two other infants are believed to have already died, according to local media. There are differing reports as to whether six or seven infants have been killed so far.

Another five survived and are being treated in a nearby hospital, Delhi fire department chief Atul Garg said.

The blaze, which broke out on the first floor of the hospital, was put out after about an hour.

Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of a baby care center in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 26, 2024. A fire broke out in the care center on Saturday night killing six infants, a fire service officer said on Sunday. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)
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Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of the hospital. Pic: AP

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Mr Garg told the ANI news agency that an oxygen cylinder blast was the likely cause of the fire, but there has been no official confirmation.

“It was a very tough operation,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

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“We made two teams. One team started firefighting because there was a blast of cylinders. We can say it was a chain of blasts of cylinders.

“We had to save ourselves also. We started rescue operations for babies as well. Unfortunately, we could not save all the children… That is a regrettable incident.”

The owner of the baby hospital has fled, according to Delhi police.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called the fire “heartbreaking”, adding that the “causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared”.

Machines move the debris following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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Machines move debris after a fire in Rajkot. Pic: Reuters

Earlier on Saturday, at least 27 people were killed in a fire at a crowded amusement park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India.

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