International Court of Justice orders Israel to halt assault on Gaza’s Rafah

International Court of Justice orders Israel to halt assault on Gaza’s Rafah

Politics


The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority said it represented a global consensus that the war must end, although presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said it did not go far enough because it did not stop fighting in other parts of Gaza.

Senior Hamas official Basem Naim told Reuters: “We call on the UN Security Council to immediately implement this World Court demand into practical measures to force the Zionist enemy to implement the decision.”

Israel launched its air and ground war in Gaza after Hamas-led militants stormed communities in southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli records. Since then, more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive, according to Gaza's health ministry.

'moral disaster'

The Israelis responded with outrage. Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said those calling for Israel to stop the war were also demanding that it cease to exist, something Israel would not accept.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid called the order “a moral collapse and a moral disaster” for failing to link the demand to stop the fighting with the demand that Hamas release the hostages.

The order was issued a week after it was requested by South Africa as part of its case accusing Israel of violating the Genocide Convention enacted in the wake of the Holocaust.

Israel's legal team at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.Credit: AP

The ICJ, based in The Hague, is the UN's highest organ to deal with disputes between states. Its rulings are final and binding, but have been ignored in the past as the court has no enforcement powers.

Israel has repeatedly rejected genocide allegations in the case as unfounded, arguing in court that its operations in Gaza are self-defense and aimed at Hamas militants who attacked Israel on October 7.

An Israeli government spokesman said on the eve of Friday's decision that “no power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and pursuing Hamas in Gaza.”

Israel began its armored assault on Rafah earlier this month, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee a city that had become a haven for half of the country's 2.3 million people. population

Rafah, in the southern tip of Gaza, has also been the main route for aid, and international organizations say the Israeli operation has cut off the enclave and increased the risk of starvation.

Israel says Rafah has served as the last stronghold for thousands of Hamas fighters and its top commanders, and cannot achieve its war objective of wiping out the Islamist militant group and rescuing its hostages without storming the city.

So far, fighting has taken place in the far south and eastern districts of Rafah, but Israel has yet to launch an assault on the main populated area of ​​the city. Its closest ally, the US, has repeatedly urged it not to do so, saying Israel has yet to show a credible plan for how to do this without causing mass casualties among displaced people taking refuge there.

Emergency measures

Lawyers for South Africa had asked the ICJ last week to order an emergency halt to the operation in Rafah, saying it had to stop to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

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South Africa has also sought an order for Israel to end its wider war in the Gaza Strip, although the court has repeatedly refrained from taking that step.

Friday's decision came days after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, an independent court also based in The Hague, announced he had filed an arrest warrant request against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders. .

Prosecutor Karim Khan accused Netanyahu and Gallant of crimes including extermination, using hunger as a weapon and deliberately targeting civilians. Israel denied the charges and called on allies to repudiate the court.

South Africa's largest case at the ICJ accuses Israel of orchestrating state-led genocide against the Palestinian people. The ICJ has not ruled on the merits of this accusation, but has rejected Israel's demand to throw out the case.

Reuters

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