ICJ concludes hearings on Palestinian territories occupation; Israel continues to block Gaza aid - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 26 Feb 2024

Ahram Online is following the latest developments in the Israeli war on Gaza on its 143rd day.

Palestinian
A Palestinian child reacts as she sits amid debris of buildings destroyed during Israeli strikes in Gaza City, on February 26, 2024. AFP

 

22:48 Hamas expressed their "heartfelt condolences and full solidarity with the family and friends of American pilot Aaron Bushnell."

In a statement, they described him as someone who "immortalized his name as a defender of human values and the injustice of the Palestinian people suffering due to the American administration and its unjust policies."

Hamas further holds the administration of US President Biden fully responsible for the death of a US Army pilot, due to "his policy of supporting the Nazi-Zionist entity in the war of extermination against our Palestinian people."

"Bushnell paid his life to shed light on the Zionist massacres and ethnic cleansing against our people in the Gaza Strip," the statement added.

Finally, the Palestinian movement said that "the hero pilot Bushnell will remain immortalized in the memory of our Palestinian people and the free people of the world, and a symbol of the spirit of international human solidarity with our people and their just cause."

22:14 Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said the Israeli occupation continues to detain seven members of its team for 18 consecutive days, including ambulance crews, anesthesia technicians, and a doctor. "They were arrested during the Israeli occupation's raid on Al-Amal Hospital, and their fate remains unknown at the moment," the PRCS said.

Earlier in the day, the PRCS decided to suspend all humanitarian coordination procedures on medical missions in the Gaza Strip for the next 48 hours, "due to the failure to ensure the safety and security of the society's Emergency Medical Services teams, the wounded, and the sick in PRCS hospitals, centers, and ambulances."

It explained that this situation is a direct consequence of the lack of commitment and respect shown by the Israeli occupation forces towards the procedures and coordination mechanisms agreed upon with the United Nations organizations.

 

21:00 The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the Israeli construction of a tower and the installation of surveillance cameras on the western wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied East Jerusalem.

The ministry considers these actions a violation of the mosque's sanctity and "an attempt to alter the historical, political, demographic, and legal status of Jerusalem," WAFA news reported.

Furthermore, the ministry denounced the daily incursions by Israeli forces into the mosque and its courtyards, viewing them as further attempts to undermine the existing status quo.

The statement condemned the continuous construction of colonial Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It also condemned Israel's deliberate targeting of Jerusalem and its citizens in general and Christian and Islamic holy sites, most notably Al-Aqsa Mosque, in particular. These include restrictions placed on worshipers’ access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

It stressed that these measures are "invalid, illegal, and a flagrant violation of international law, United Nations resolutions, and UNESCO resolutions."

The foreign ministry called for "immediate international intervention to stop such violations and stop the war of genocide and ethnic cleansing committed against the Palestinian people."

20:15 After the killing of six-year-old Hind Rajab, five of her family members, and two Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) dispatchers in Tal Al-Hawa on 29 January, the Israeli army said they would investigate the incident.

According to a report by the Times of Israel, Israeli officials said their initial investigation showed that troops were not present in the area when Hind and her family members were killed.

“It appears that … troops were not present near the vehicle or within firing range of the described vehicle in which the girl was found,” a statement from the Israeli army read.

This contradicts Hind's distress call to the Red Crescent, in which she mentioned an Israeli tank near the car where she was trapped.

“Also, given the lack of forces in the area, there was no need for individual coordination of the movement of the ambulance or another vehicle to pick up the girl,” the Israeli statement said, which goes counter to PRCS’ statement that it had been working to coordinate with the Israeli army.

The statement went on to claim that medics are moving without restriction throughout the Gaza Strip, which goes also against multiple accounts out of Gaza.

Furthermore, an Al Jazeera digital investigation suggests that Israeli soldiers were indeed present in the area where Rajab was killed. 

Sanad, Al Jazeera’s investigations unit, analyzed phone records and satellite imagery to prove that there were Israeli troops near the car belonging to Hind’s family that day.

The vehicle, the investigation found, had been stopped by the Israeli military near a petrol station in Tal Al-Hawa around early afternoon on 29 January.

A phone call from Hind’s uncle to a relative in Germany triggered the PRCS intervention. Al Jazeera obtained messages between the relatives, time-stamping the last few hours of the deadly ordeal when Hind and one of her cousins, 15-year-old Layan, were still alive.

Layan, who was the first on the call with the PRCS, identified Israeli tanks near the car, saying: “They are firing at us; the tank is beside me.” Within minutes, a round of what sounded like gunfire went off and a screaming Layan went quiet.

When Hind picked up the phone and spoke to the PRCS, she also identified Israeli military vehicles near the family car. “The tank is next to me. [It’s] coming from the front of the car,” she said. Around three hours later, the connection with Hind was cut off.

Al Jazeera’s analysis of satellite images taken at midday on 29 January corroborated Hind and Layan’s accounts and put at least three Israeli tanks just 270m (886 feet) from the family’s car, with their guns pointed at it.

 

19:45 Israel is defying the ICJ ruling to prevent genocide by failing to allow adequate humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, Amnesty International said.

Israeli authorities have "failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply" with the ICJ ruling issued on 26 January, Amnesty said.

“Not only has Israel created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, but it is also displaying a callous indifference to the fate of Gaza’s population by creating conditions which the ICJ has said place them at imminent risk of genocide,” said Heba Morayef, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. 

Israel continues to tightly restrict the import of essential supplies to Gaza. All imports to Gaza must be pre-approved by Israeli authorities. In February, humanitarians continued to describe frequent, unpredictable, and “arbitrary” rejections and limitations, the organization noted.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said there was a "50 percent reduction" in humanitarian aid entering Gaza during February compared to January.

"Aid was supposed to increase not decrease to address the huge needs of two million Palestinians in desperate living conditions," UNRWA Chief Philippe Lazzarini said on X.

He said a lack of political will and regular closing of border crossing points were among the reasons.

 

19:00 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and his government submitted earlier on Monday, a statement by the presidency said.

Abbas issued a decree accepting the resignation and assigned Shtayyeh's government to continue "temporarily until a new government is formed," the statement said.

18:20 The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met with Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, on Monday and reaffirmed his country's ongoing support for the Palestinian people and their just cause.

The meeting also addressed efforts aimed at reaching a permanent ceasefire agreement in the strip, according to the Qatar News Agency (QNA).

Representatives from the US, Qatar, Egypt, and Israel are convening in Doha to elaborate on an understanding reached in Paris last week to halt the Gaza war and exchange prisoners.

Informed sources told the German Press Agency that an Egyptian delegation is en route to Qatar.

Media reports suggest that the Israeli delegation's scope in the talks will be "limited," focusing primarily on technical aspects.

Mediators aspire to broker a ceasefire agreement between the two parties before the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan, starting on 10 March.

18:16 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced today that the public hearings on the request for an advisory opinion regarding the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, have concluded.

The ICJ told Al Jazeera it had received the Israeli response and forwarded it to South Africa, and its contents will remain confidential.

The court will now commence its deliberations.

The advisory opinion will be delivered at a public sitting, the date of which will be announced in due course.

During the hearings, the State of Palestine, 49 member states of the United Nations, and three international organizations presented oral statements.

The verbatim records of the hearings are accessible on the case page on the court’s website.

 

17:18 Hezbollah says it has fired 60 rockets at an Israeli military HQ in response to an Israeli air attack on Lebanon’s Baalbek region.

At least two simultaneous Israeli strikes hit around the Lebanese city of Baalbek, in the first bombardment of eastern Lebanon since the start of Israel's war on Gaza.

The Israeli attacks killed at least two people, a Lebanese security source told Al Jazeera.

16:50 On 26 January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Israel must urgently act to prevent genocide in Gaza and gave Israel a month to comply, but the killing did not stop.

Al Jazeera compiled what happened in Gaza during that month.

 


 

16:30 The Jordanian army said that it "executed the largest humanitarian aid operation in the Gaza Strip."

"The humanitarian aid missions targeted 11 sites along the Gaza coast, spanning from the northern to the southern regions of the strip."

The aid missions in Gaza involved three Jordanian planes and one French plane.

Airdrop operations, conducted in collaboration with the Israeli army, within the central and southern regions of the Gaza Strip, are perceived by Palestinians as a propagandistic maneuver aligned with the Israeli occupation's agenda to depopulate Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip, pushing inhabitants to relocate southward, Ramy Abdu, chairman of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, remarked.

"Residents of Gaza City and the north are starving," he said.

 

16:12 Here are some photos coming from Gaza today.

A displaced Palestinian woman stands in front of hanging laundry amid the rubble of a damaged house in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. AFP

Palestinians evacuate the body of a boy from the rubble of a house destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in east Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP

Palestinians bury their dead following overnight Israeli air strikes, at a cemetery in east Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. AFP

16:05 "Last month, the World Court told the government of Israel it had to enable the provision of basic services and humanitarian aid in Gaza. It was a legally binding order. Today, one month later, Israel has failed to comply," Human Rights Watch said in its briefing on the situation in Gaza.

"The government of Israel continues to obstruct the provision of basic services and the entry and distribution within Gaza of fuel and lifesaving aid. Israeli authorities have allowed even fewer trucks into Gaza and fewer aid missions into northern Gaza in recent weeks than in the weeks preceding the World Court order," HRW added.

"International humanitarian law is clear here: an occupying power is responsible for the wellbeing of an occupied population."

 

16:00 An active member of the US Air Force has died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington over the weekend in protest of the Israeli war on Gaza, the Pentagon said Monday.

Emergency responders on Sunday had rushed to the scene just before 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in response to a "call for the person on fire outside the Israeli Embassy," according to a message on X, formerly Twitter, by the capital city's fire department.

They arrived to find that officers from the Secret Service the US law enforcement agency tasked with protecting embassies in Washington had already extinguished the fire.

The man, who was identified by media and social media platforms as Aaron Bushnell, 25, had filmed himself shouting "Free Palestine" as he lit himself on fire, according to footage shared on social media.

He was initially transported to hospital with "critical life-threatening injuries," the fire department said.

An Air Force spokeswoman told AFP Monday morning that the unnamed "individual involved in yesterday's incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night."

"We will provide additional details 24 hours after next-of-kin notifications are complete."

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was "unknown" to them.

In the video shared on social media, the man is seen wearing military fatigues and declaring he will "not be complicit in genocide" before dousing himself in liquid.

The video was reportedly first shared in a live stream on the social platform Twitch.

14:30 The League of Arab States on Monday called Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories an "affront to international justice," saying failure to end it amounted to "genocide."

The International Court of Justice entered its last day of week-long hearings after a request from the United Nations, with an unprecedented 52 countries giving their views on Israel's occupation.

"This prolonged occupation is an affront to international justice," the 22-Arab-country bloc's representative, Abdel-Hakim Al-Rifai, told judges in The Hague.

"The insistence on placing Israel above the law through the politicization of accountability and adopting double standards in the application of justice is a direct threat to international peace and stability," he said.

"The failure to bring it to an end has led to the current horrors perpetrated against the Palestinian people, amounting to genocide," Abdel-Hakim El-Rifai said, reading a written statement.

Most speakers during the hearings have demanded that Israel end its occupation, which came after a six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.

But last week the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.

Speakers on Monday warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

"If left unchecked, it runs the risk of not only threatening regional but also global peace and security," Turkey's representative Ahmet Yildiz said.

Zambia's representative however told judges that both sides had a duty to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

"Both Israel and Palestine must respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law," Marshal Mubambe Muchende said.

He said any settlement of the conflict should not be "one that puts the blame squarely on one party, but rather one that advances a negotiated solution which culminates in a two-state solution."

The hearings, which began last Monday, are the first time that the ICJ has been asked to detail the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation” of the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since 1967.

The UN General Assembly asked the court to give an advisory opinion, which is expected to take months to deliver.

13:00 Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the Lebanese city of Baalbek on Monday, a security source told AFP, in the first strike on Lebanon's east in almost five months of cross-border clashes.

"An Israeli strike hit a building housing a Hezbollah civilian institution," in a Baalbek suburb, the source said, requesting anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the press.

A second Israeli strike hit a warehouse near Baalbek belonging to the Iran-backed group, the source said.

The Israeli army said it is "currently striking Hezbollah terror targets deep inside Lebanon."

The city of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley is a Hezbollah bastion bordering government-held Syria a major Hezbollah ally.

Earlier Monday, the group said it shot down a "large" Israeli drone in southern Lebanon.

Since 8 October, Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire, but strikes have been largely contained to the border area although Israel has on occasion launched strikes elsewhere in Lebanon, including in Beirut.

At least 278 people have been killed on the Lebanese side since fighting erupted; most of them are Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

There is no end in sight for the Israeli killing machine in Gaza.

12:30 The bodies of 90 people killed in Israel’s bombardment were brought to hospitals in Gaza in the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian health ministry in the strip.

Hospitals had also received 164 wounded, added the ministry in its daily briefing.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza to 29,782 and the wounded to 70,043 since the war on Gaza began on 7 October.

Two-thirds of the dead and wounded are children and women.

The ministry said many casualties remain under the rubble and first responders have been unable to retrieve them amid Israeli relentless bombing.

11:30 A full-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah would deliver a death blow to aid programs in Gaza, where humanitarian assistance remains "completely insufficient," the UN chief warned Monday.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Antonio Guterres said that Gaza's southernmost city, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are crowded together in tent cities, was "the core of the humanitarian aid operation" in the Palestinian territory.

"An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs," he said.

His comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated that his country was intent on a ground invasion in Rafah.

10:30 Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday announced the resignation of his government which rules parts of the occupied West Bank.

"I submit the government's resignation to Mr. President (Mahmoud Abbas)," Shtayyeh said, adding that it comes in the wake of the "developments related to the aggression against the Gaza Strip and the escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem."

PM Shtayyeh called for "new governmental and political measures" amid the ongoing Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

"The next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political measures that take into account the new reality in the Gaza Strip," he said, as he called for inter-Palestinian consensus and the "extension of the (Palestinian) Authority's rule over the entire land of Palestine."

10:00 An active member of the US Air Force set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday, officials said, as media reported he was protesting the war in Gaza.

Emergency responders rushed to the scene just before 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in response to a "call for the person on fire outside the Israeli Embassy," according to a message on X, formerly Twitter, by the capital's fire department.

They arrived to find that officers from the Secret Service  the US law enforcement agency tasked with protecting US political leaders, visiting heads of state, and others  had already extinguished the fire.

The man was transported to hospital with "critical life-threatening injuries," the fire department said.

An Air Force spokesperson confirmed to AFP that he was an active member of the Air Force but gave no further details.

The burn victim, who identified himself in the video of the incident as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell, reportedly succumbed to his injuries on Sunday night, according to independent journalist Talia Jane, who posted on social media that she is in contact with Bushnell’s family and friends, reported the Time Magazine.

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was "unknown" to them.

US media reported that the man live-streamed himself on Twitch, wearing fatigues and declaring he would "not be complicit in genocide" before dousing himself in liquid.

He then lit himself on fire while yelling "Free Palestine!" until he fell to the ground.

AFP has been unable to immediately verify the footage, with the New York Times reporting that it was removed from Twitch.

The shocking act came as protests are increasing across the United States against Israel's assault on Gaza since 7 October.

With the Palestinian death toll from five months in Gaza nearing 30,000 and the number of wounded over 70,000, international pressure has been increasing on the United States to rein its ally Israel in and call for a ceasefire.

The US has backed the Israeli campaign against Gaza with billions of dollars in cash and airlifted weapons and ammunition.

09:00 "If we have a (truce) deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen," Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said of the ground invasion of Rafah in an interview with Face the Nation on CBS Sunday.

Israel's military has proposed a plan for evacuating civilians from "areas of fighting" in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Monday after he said a ground invasion of the Palestinian territory's southern city of Rafah was necessary.

Foreign governments and aid organizations have repeatedly expressed fears that an invasion of Rafah would inflict mass civilian casualties.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians  most of them displaced from elsewhere  have converged on the last Gazan city untouched by Israel's ground troops.

It is also the entry point for desperately needed aid, brought in via neighbouring Egypt.

Israel's military "presented the War Cabinet with a plan for evacuating the population from areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, and with the upcoming operational plan," a statement in Hebrew from Netayahu's office said on Monday.

The statement did not give any details about how or where the civilians would be moved.

The announcement comes after Egyptian, Qatari, and US "experts" met in Doha for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media reported, the latest effort to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel's ally the United States said ongoing mediation efforts produced "an understanding" towards a ceasefire and captive release, while a Hamas source said the group insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

But Netanyahu, who has dismissed the withdrawal demand as "delusional," said a ground invasion of Rafah would put Israel within weeks of "total victory" over Hamas.

"It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach  not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation."

Netanyahu told CBS that it was not clear yet whether a hostage deal would materialize from ongoing talks, declining to discuss specifics, but said Hamas needed to “come down to a reasonable situation.”

“They’re on another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes we’ll have a hostage deal. I hope so,” he told Face the Nation.

Meanwhile, Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu’s comments cast doubt over Israel’s willingness to secure a deal, according to Reuters.

“Netanyahu’s comments show he is not concerned about reaching an agreement,” Abu Zuhri told Reuters, accusing the Israeli leader of wanting “to pursue negotiation under bombardment and the bloodshed (of Palestinians)," added Abu Zuhri.

Amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians urged political action to avert famine in Gaza.

Dire food shortages in northern Gaza are "a man-made disaster" that can be mitigated, said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

"Famine can still be avoided through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance."

The UN has said it faces restrictions, particularly on aid deliveries to northern Gaza.

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