New historic decision: ICJ orders Israel to immediately halt military offensive in Rafah and open Rafah border crossing

Ahram Online , Friday 24 May 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a new provisional order in a 13-2 vote that Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in Rafah and open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow the entry of humanitarian aid to 2.4 million Palestinians who are facing a disastrous situation.

Magistrates are seen at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as part of South Africa s request for a Gaza ceasefire in The Hague, on May 24, 2024. AFP


Reading out a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court, the body’s president Nawaf Salam said provisional measures ordered by the court on 28 March did not fully address the situation in Gaza now, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.

“Israel must immediately halt its military offensive” in Rafah, he said.

In its ruling, the world court said it was “not convinced” that the evacuation of Rafah and other measures by Israel were sufficient to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

The ICJ said Israel must take measures to ensure unimpeded access into the Gaza Strip for inquirers to preserve evidence.

The court told Israel that it must submit a report on measures taken within one month.

The ICJ) determined that the humanitarian situation in Rafah has “deteriorated further” since the last court order on 28 March when the court affirmed the 26 January order.

In the ruling, the court said it has determined that the humanitarian situation in Rafah can now be classified as “disastrous”.

The court also ruled that Israel must immediately open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow the entry of humanitarian aid to 2.4 million Palestinians who are facing a disastrous situation.   

The South African legal team at the genocide case against Israel at the Hague. AFP

Genocide case!

On Friday, the ICJ  backed a South African request to order Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah, a week after Pretoria called for the measure in a case accusing Israel of genocide.

Israel has repeatedly dismissed the case’s accusations of genocide as baseless, arguing in court that its operations in Gaza are "self-defence" and "targeted at Hamas militants" who attacked Israel on 7 October.

The Israeli war on Gaza has killed more than 35,000 and wounded nearly 80,000 - mostly women and children - since 7 October.

Israel has destroyed most civilian infrastructure in the strip, including hospitals, schools, places of worship, universities and roads.

A near-total Israeli blockade on water, food, and medicine has left most of the population on the brink of starvation.

An Israeli government spokesperson said on the eve of Friday’s decision that “no power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza," according to Reuters.

In early May, Israel launched its assault on the southern city of Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge, forcing 800,000 Palestinians to flee a city that had become a refuge for around half of the population.

In tandem, Israeli troops have taken over the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, thus preventing the entry of humanitarian aid to a population facing famine conditions.

Egypt has repeatedly called on Israel to halt its assault on Rafah and withdraw its forces from the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

On 26 January, the ICJ, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in an interim ruling but instructed Israel to do everything possible to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

South Africa, which filed the case later supported formally by Egypt, argued the ongoing Israeli operation in Rafah should compel the UN court to issue fresh emergency orders.

The case, which Israel says should be dismissed, adds to mounting international pressure for a truce and prisoner exchange more than seven months into the  Israeli war on the strip.

Read the full ICJ order below


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