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UN high court orders Israel to immediately stop offensive in Rafah | Israel-Gaza War

The UN’s top court has ordered Israel to stop its attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, in a ruling that will increase pressure on the increasingly isolated country.

The president of the international court of justice, Nawaf Salam, said the humanitarian situation in Rafah had deteriorated further and was now classified as “disastrous”, meaning provisional measures previously issued by the ICJ were insufficient.

He said the court had voted by a majority of 13 to two that “Israel, in accordance with its obligations under the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, and in view of the worsening living conditions civilians in the Rafah Governorate face…immediately stop its military offensive and any other actions in the Rafah Governorate that may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza living conditions that would result in their total or partial physical destruction.”

The ICJ order is not enforceable and Israeli ministers indicated they would not comply.

A Palestinian and his children sit in a destroyed room after an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building in Rafah on Wednesday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Israeli forces stepped up military attacks in Gaza, bombing targets in Rafah, even as the ICJ issued its decision, residents and doctors said.

Friday’s ruling by the ICJ is the court’s third (and by far most significant) intervention in the conflict and comes four days after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, an independent court also based in The Hague , said he was looking for arrest warrants. for senior Hamas and Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The ruling will increase pressure on the United Kingdom and the United States, which criticized the ICC’s request for injunctions, to exert influence over Israel.

However, after speaking by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel’s war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s political rival, said Israel was “obliged to continue fighting to return its hostages and guarantee the security of its citizens.” , anytime, anywhere, even in Rafah. We will continue to act in accordance with international law in Rafah and wherever we operate, and will make every effort to avoid harm to civilians. Not because of the court in The Hague, but above all because of who we are.”

In a statement, Netanyahu’s office rejected South Africa’s genocide charge as “false, scandalous and repugnant,” adding: “Israel has not and will not conduct a military campaign in the Rafah area that would create living conditions. that may lead to the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part.”

Israel’s far-right national security minister. Itamar Ben-Gvir accused the court of being “anti-Semitic” and, quoting Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said in X: “Our future depends not on what the Gentiles will say but on what the Gentiles will do.” Jews!”

He added that the court’s ruling “should have only one response: the occupation of Rafah, increasing military pressure and crushing Hamas, until complete victory in the war is achieved.”

Footage from nearby building captures Rafah airstrike shortly after ICJ ruling – video

Palestinian Authority presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the ICJ decision represented a consensus to end the war in Gaza, while Hamas official Basem Naim also welcomed the ruling and urged the UN Security Council to implement it. But the militant group said it did not go far enough and urged an end to Israel’s offensive across Gaza.

South African official Zane Dangor described it as “groundbreaking” and “a de facto call for a ceasefire.”

The ICJ’s decision, in response to a request from South Africa, comes the same week that Ireland, Norway and Spain announced they would recognize the Palestinian state.

Israel launched its attack on Rafah this month, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee the southernmost city of Gaza, which had become a relative refuge for about half of the territory’s 2.3 million people.

Rafah has also been the main route for aid arrivals, and international organizations say the Israeli operation has isolated the territory and increased the risk of famine.

Salam, president of the ICJ, said that UN officials had “consistently underlined the immense risks associated with a military offensive” and added: “The court is not convinced that the evacuation efforts and related measures that Israel claims to have undertaken to improve the security of civilians in the Gaza Strip, and in particular those recently displaced from the Rafah governorate, are sufficient to alleviate the immense risk to which the Palestinian population is exposed as a result of the military offensive in Rafah.”

South Africa’s lawyers last week asked the ICJ to impose emergency measures, saying Israel’s attacks on Rafah must stop to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

The court is the highest UN body to hear disputes between states. Its rulings are final and binding, but have been ignored in the past. The court has no enforcement powers.

South Africa’s broader case before the ICJ accuses Israel of orchestrating a state-led genocide against the Palestinian people. The ICJ has not ruled on the merits of that accusation – it could take years – but has rejected Israel’s demand to dismiss the case.

In previous rulings, the court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and allow the flow of aid to Gaza, stopping short of ordering a cessation of Israeli military operations.

About 36,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s military response to the October 7 attacks on southern Israel, in which Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and They took another 250 hostage.

Israel has said it is acting in self-defense in trying to eliminate Hamas and has made “extraordinary” efforts to protect civilians.

The court also issued orders, all approved by a 13-2 majority, stating that Israel must allow unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance through the Rafah crossing, ensure unhindered access to the Gaza Strip by any appropriate to investigate accusations of genocide, and prepare a report within one month on compliance with all measures.

He called for “the immediate and unconditional release” of all Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and other armed groups.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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