Monday, June 17, 2024

ICJ orders Israel to halt military operation against Gaza’s Rafah

Judges at the top United Nations court have ordered Israel to halt its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and withdraw from the besieged enclave, in a case brought by South Africa accusing Tel Aviv of genocide, citing “immense risk” to the Palestinian population.

Friday’s decision marked the third time this year the 15-judge panel has issued preliminary orders seeking to rein in the death toll and alleviate humanitarian suffering in the blockaded territory. While orders are legally binding, the court has no police to enforce them.

Reading out a ruling by the International Court of Justice or World Court, the body’s president, Nawaf Salam, said provisional measures ordered by the court in March did not fully address the situation in the besieged Palestinian enclave now, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.

Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”, Salam stated, and called the humanitarian situation in Rafah “disastrous”.

South Africa’s lawyers had asked the ICJ in The Hague last week to impose emergency measures, saying Israel’s attacks on Rafah must be stopped to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

The ICJ has also ordered Israel to report back to the court within one month over its progress in applying measures ordered by the institution.

Israel launched its assault on the southern city of Rafah this month, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee a city that had become a refuge to about half of the population’s 2.3 million people.

Rafah, on Gaza’s southern edge, has also been the main route in for aid, and international organisations say the Israeli operation has cut off the enclave and raised the risk of famine.

The Palestinian Authority has welcomed the decision on Friday from the International Court of Justice, stressing it represents an international consensus to end the war on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told the Reuters news agency.

Shortly after the ruling, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, wrote on the social media platform X that “the State of Israel is at war for its existence”.

“Those who demand that the State of Israel stop the war, demand that it decree itself to cease to exist. We will not agree to that,” he stated.

“We continue to fight for ourselves and for the entire free world. History will judge who today stood by the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS [ISIL or Daesh],” he added.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the highest UN body for hearing disputes between states. Its rulings are final and binding, but have been ignored in the past.
In a highly charged ruling in January, the court ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a halt in the fighting.

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