STORY: Israel was defending the military necessity of its Gaza offensive at the International Court of Justice on Friday (May 17)...


... only to be interrupted by a heckler.

It was a rare moment of protest in the Hague's "Great Hall of Justice" courtroom where Israel is facing a request by South Africa to halt its operations in Rafah and withdraw from the Palestinian territory.

South Africa's case accuses Israel of violating the Genocide Convention.

Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam said that argument was "completely divorced from facts and circumstances."

"Israel is engaged in a difficult and tragic armed conflict. South Africa ignores this factual context, which is essential in order to comprehend the situation, and also ignores the applicable legal framework of international humanitarian law. It makes a mockery of the heinous charge of genocide."

Noam said that Israel's military operations were not aimed at civilians, but at Hamas terrorists using Rafah as a stronghold.

The latest hearings at the ICJ have been brought by South Africa to request emergency action in response to Israel's military assault on Rafah.

That's as a part of South Africa's wider genocide case against Israel.

In past rulings, the court has rejected Israel's demands to dismiss the case and ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians, while stopping short of ordering it to halt the assault.

Outside the court, Palestinian official Ammar Hijazi said it was Israel's side that was presenting a "parallel reality."

"...that is contrary to everything that the international community, the relevant institutions, the numbers of humanitarian workers who were killed, the number of journalists, the live stream of this genocide, which you have all seen."

A decision on the request for emergency measures is expected next week.

More than 35,300 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, health officials in the enclave said on Thursday (May 16).

Nearly half the territory's 2.3 million people have taken refuge in Rafah.

The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people according to Israeli figures and abducting 253 others.

Ahead of Israel's presentation, several dozen pro-Israeli protesters gathered outside the court.

They displayed photographs of hostages taken by Hamas fighters and demanded their release.