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ICJ Orders Israel to Immediately Halt Rafah Military Offensive

May 24, 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top judicial body of the United Nations, has issued a ruling demanding that Israel immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, located in southern Gaza. This decision follows an emergency request by South Africa, which described Israel’s actions in Rafah as “genocidal” and a direct threat to the survival of the Palestinian people.

South Africa’s request is part of a broader case it has brought against Israel regarding its actions in Gaza. The ICJ’s ruling highlights the severity of the situation in Rafah, where recent Israeli military actions have resulted in significant displacement and suffering. According to a United Nations report cited by the ICJ, approximately 800,000 Palestinians have been displaced since the offensive on Rafah began on May 7.

Immediate Halt Ordered

Presiding over the hearing, Judge Nawaf Salam stated that the ICJ has ordered Israel to cease its military operations and any other actions in Rafah that could inflict conditions leading to the potential destruction of the Palestinian population, either in whole or in part.

The ICJ’s ruling includes several specific directives which Israel has been ordered to abide by:

  1. Immediate halt to the military operations in Rafah.
  2. Opening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to allow the entry of large-scale humanitarian aid.
  3. Ensuring access to Gaza for investigators and fact-finding missions.
  4. Reporting to the court within a month on the progress in implementing these measures.

Judge Salam emphasized the ongoing risks of irreparable harm to the rights of Gaza’s residents if the offensive continues. He cited various UN officials who have warned about the dangers of the military operations in Rafah, noting that these risks have started to materialize and will intensify if the offensive persists.

The court also addressed the plight of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Judge Salam expressed the ICJ’s grave concern over their fate and called for their immediate and unconditional release, describing the continued captivity of many hostages as deeply troubling.

Despite the ruling, the ICJ has limited means to enforce its orders. Israel has previously dismissed South Africa’s case as “wholly unfounded” and maintained that the Rafah offensive is crucial for defeating Hamas in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks.

The ICJ’s decision nevertheless marks a significant development in the ongoing conflict, underscoring the international community’s call for immediate humanitarian relief and the protection of civilians in Gaza.

Since 7 October, over 35,000 people – many of them children and women – have been reported killed in the seven-month-long conflict, according to the latest data reported by WAFA Agency. An additional 79,000 were injured with many more trapped under rubble caused by Israeli airstrikes.

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