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Montevideo, June 21st 2024 - 11:44 UTC



ICJ orders Israel to halt Rafah offensive out of humanitarian concerns

Friday, May 24th 2024 - 23:33 UTC
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Tel Aviv is unlikely to comply with the ruling Tel Aviv is unlikely to comply with the ruling
Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum was among the three Oct. 7 victims whose bodies were retrieved from Gaza on Friday Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum was among the three Oct. 7 victims whose bodies were retrieved from Gaza on Friday

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Friday issued a landmark ruling ordering Israel to stop its military deployment in Rafah, a spot in southern Gaza where thousands are said to have been killed since the beginning of hostilities in October last year. The highest court of the United Nations (UN) also warned that the current situation was “causing irreparable harm” nearing the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinians in Gaza conditions of life that could lead to their total or partial physical destruction,” the ICJ said while demanding Israel “ensure unimpeded access” to Gaza for “any commission of inquiry.” Tel Aviv should also “keep open” the Rafah crossing for humanitarian access to the Strip, the ICJ ruled after Israeli troops retrieved the bodies of three people taken hostage during the Oct. 7 raid by the terrorist group Hamas: Israeli Hanan Yablonka, Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum, and Mexican-French Orion Hernandez.

While reading out the court’s ruling Friday, ICJ Chief Justice Nawaf Salam said he and his fellow magistrates were “not convinced that the evacuation efforts and the related measures that Israel affirms to have undertaken” were sufficient to “alleviate the immense risk” to civilians in Rafah. “Israel must immediately hold its military offensive of [sic] any other action in the Rafah governorate,” he went on. Failure to do so could result in the destruction of life in the southern Gaza city near the Egyptian border where some 1.4 million Palestinian refugees sought shelter as Israeli troops advanced.

The ICJ had ordered Israel in March to do everything in its power to prevent genocide and to improve the living conditions of Gaza's residents, despite which the humanitarian situation has “deteriorated further” and is now classified as “disastrous.”

South Africa, which brought genocide charges against Israel at the ICJ in December, requested this month that its judges order an end to the Rafah operation. “Those who have survived so far are facing imminent death now, and an order from the court is needed to ensure their survival,” Pretoria’s filing read.

While the ICJ’s rulings are legally binding, it lacks any means of enforcing them. Hence, Israel is unlikely to comply with Friday’s order. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that an invasion of Rafah was necessary to root out Hamas’ remaining battalions and achieve “total victory” to prevent an encore of the Oct. 7 attack.

In addition, the ICJ was specific about Rafah. It never ordered the IDF to withdraw from Gaza or to restrict military actions in other parts of the enclave.

Upon filing the case against Israel in December, South Africa argued that the IDF’s actions in Gaza were a violation of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, of which Israel is a signatory. Hence, ICJ rulings are binding.

However, Tel Aviv has repeatedly rejected all claims of genocide and insisted it was fighting an existential defensive war while those holding genocidal intentions were the Hamas terrorists. The Israeli government has kept asking the international community to bear in mind that the war began with Hamas' incursion in southern Israel killing some 1,200 people and taking 252 as hostages, of whom 125 remain in captivity.

While South Africa, Hamas, and the UN speak of some 35,000 casualties in Gaza, of which close to 25,000 have been verified, Israel has said that some 14,000 of them were combatants.

Categories: Politics, International.

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