The UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice, ICJ, has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, supporting a request brought by South Africa.

South Africa made an application last week seeking a number of measures against Israel, accusing it of stepping up what it says is a genocide.

Israel has vehemently denied the allegation as baseless and has signalled it would ignore any order to halt its operation.

Ahead of Friday’s ruling, an Israeli government spokesperson said no power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza.

Israel began a long-anticipated offensive in Rafah about three weeks ago, vowing to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions.

It says it believes Israeli hostages are also being held in the town.

The UN says more than 800,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah since the offensive began.

About 1.5 million had been sheltering there from the fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

The hearing is part of a case brought by South Africa to the ICJ in December, claiming Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

That case is ongoing.