THE HAGUE (NEWSnet/AP) — The United Nations’ top court opens two days of hearings on Thursday into a request from South Africa to press Israel to halt its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter.

It is the fourth time South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice for emergency measures since the nation launched proceedings alleging that Israel’s military action in its war with Hamas in Gaza amounts to genocide.

According to the latest request, the previous preliminary orders by The Hague-based court were not sufficient to address “a brutal military attack on the sole remaining refuge for the people of Gaza.”

Israel has portrayed Rafah as the last stronghold of the militant group, brushing off warnings from the United States and other allies that any major operation there would be catastrophic for civilians.

South Africa has asked the court to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah; to take measures to ensure unimpeded access for U.N. officials, humanitarian organizations and journalists to the Gaza Strip; and to report back within one week on how it is meeting these demands.

Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have been displaced since fighting began.

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