Home News ICJ orders Israel to halt military offensive on Rafah

ICJ orders Israel to halt military offensive on Rafah

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The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its military offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a move that is aimed at curbing the flow of troops into the city. International isolation and fiercely criticized its conduct in the war.

The court has few effective means to enforce its orders, and while it did not order a ceasefire in Gaza, some judges have argued that Israel could still conduct some military operations in Rafah under the terms of the ruling.

But the order adds more pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which faces calls at home and abroad to reach a ceasefire with Hamas to release hostages held in Gaza.

“The Court finds that Israel, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, must immediately cease its military offensive and any other actions in Rafah governorate that could impose adverse living conditions on the Palestinian population in Gaza, leading to its total or partial destruction,” court president Nawaf Salam said in a reading. 13 to 2 verdict.

The Hague-based tribunal also pinpointed the need for the opening of land crossings, particularly Rafah, as part of its demands for “unhindered access” to humanitarian aid and services. Israel has controlled the Rafah crossing for more than two weeks, according to the United Nations, and few aid trucks have entered the area since then.

The Israeli government said in a statement that its army “has not and will not” take actions that would lead to the partial or total destruction of the Palestinian population of Rafah. In effect, it said the court’s ruling had no impact on Israel’s offensive because the prohibited actions had not taken place.

Hard-line Israeli politicians said Israel should ignore the ruling.

“There should be one response: the capture of Rafah, increasing military pressure and the complete defeat of Hamas until total victory is achieved,” far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a statement.

Hamas welcomed the court’s order in a statement on the Telegram messaging app and called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to comply. But the Palestinian militant group – which led the October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war that left 1,200 people dead and 250 abducted to Gaza – criticized the court for refusing to order Israel to completely stop its operations in Gaza.

Hamas said other Israeli actions were “no less criminal and dangerous than what happened in Rafah.”

The ruling is the latest rebuke of Israel’s battle with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Gaza health officials say more than 35,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children, but officials do not distinguish between fighters and civilians. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have repeatedly fled the area to escape Israeli bombardment.

The court order came two days after three European countries, Ireland, Spain and Norway, Announcement of recognition of the State of Palestine. Earlier, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor announced on Monday that he Seeking a warrant Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant and three senior Hamas officials, including the group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, are on trial for crimes against humanity.

Last week, a South African legal team that brought its case against Israel to the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, urged judges to impose further restrictions on Israel’s incursion into Rafah, calling it “the final step to destroy Gaza and its people.”

Israel’s deputy attorney general for international law Gilad Noam and other Israeli lawyers rejected the allegations in court on Friday, calling South Africa’s case a “perversion of reality.” Mr. Noam says Israel invaded Rafah “Limited and localized operations premised on evacuation efforts and support for humanitarian activities.”

But on Friday, Judge Salam said the court remained unconvinced that Israel’s massive evacuation efforts and humanitarian measures had truly protected Palestinian civilians from the “huge risks” they faced from the Rafah military offensive.

Israeli officials have vowed to take action in Rafah to dismantle Hamas rule despite an international outcry over the mass displacement of Palestinians who have taken refuge there, but legal analysts say the military may have some wiggle room.

Michael Sfard, a prominent Israeli human rights lawyer, said: “The ruling does not call for an end to all military operations in Rafah, but only for those operations that make it impossible for the residents of Rafah to continue living. At the same time, if Israel wants to comply with the ruling, it must significantly reduce military operations.”

South African judge Dire Tladi of the International Court of Justice said that “legitimate defensive actions to repel a specific attack, in strict compliance with international law,” were consistent with the ICJ’s ruling. But he added that “continuation of offensive military operations in Rafah and elsewhere” was not consistent with the ICJ’s ruling.

“Israel can choose the legally safe course and severely limit its actions, or it can choose the legally risky course and test the patience of the courts,” said Adil Haq, a law professor at Rutgers Law School.

Israel said its operation in Rafah was a precision operation targeting Hamas militants holed up there. Rafah is Gaza’s southernmost city and more than 800,000 people have fled the city since the invasion began two weeks ago. Israeli officials said the Palestinian militant group had established four battalions in the city before the Oct. 7 attack. Hamas has also built dozens of cross-border tunnels that allow it to smuggle weapons and ammunition in spite of Israeli and Egyptian blockades.

Israel said Thursday its troops were slowly advancing from the east toward central Rafah, where half the population had been hiding before the Israeli army’s offensive. Orderly Mass evacuation.

On Friday, the military said its forces had been destroying “weapons storage facilities as well as tunnels.” Hamas also posted a series of updates on its Telegram channel claiming that its armed wing was attacking Israeli troops with mortars and explosive devices in Rafah.

Activist groups such as Human Rights Watch welcomed the ICJ’s order. “The ICJ’s order highlights the dire situation facing Palestinians in Gaza, who have been cut off from basic services and humanitarian aid for months while fighting continues,” said Barkis Jarrah, deputy director of the group’s international justice department.

“Nowhere is safe in Gaza and civilians are facing famine,” Ms. Jarrah added, “yet the Israeli government continues to flout the ICJ’s binding orders and impede access to life-saving aid and services.”

Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament, condemned the ICJ’s ruling. But he added that if Netanyahu’s government had behaved more responsibly, it “could and should” have avoided such a harmful ruling by the judges.

“A sane and professional government would have stopped ministers from making crazy statements, stopped the criminals who burned rescue vehicles, and done quiet and effective politics,” Lapid wrote on social media. “This government will not let us win.”

The South African team had argued at the international court that Israel’s control of Gaza’s two main border crossings in southern Gaza — Rafah and Kerem Shalom — prevented adequate aid from reaching the devastated region, plunging Gaza into “unprecedented humanitarian needs.”

While few aid vehicles have entered Gaza, at least dozens of commercial trucks have arrived from Israeli-controlled crossing points in northern and southern Gaza, carrying goods meant to be sold rather than distributed for free.

On Friday, the White House and the Egyptian presidency announced that Egypt had agreed to allow fuel and humanitarian aid to be shipped from Egypt to Gaza via Kerem Shalom. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s office called it a “temporary measure.” The Egyptian government initially refused to send trucks to Kerem Shalom, which U.S. and Israeli officials said was an attempt to pressure Israel to abandon the Rafah operation.

The court hearing is part of South Africa’s accusation that Israel has committed genocide. The company filed aOn Friday, Israel’s National Security Chief of Staff and Foreign Ministry spokesman issued a joint statement, again The claim was dismissedAnd called it “false, shameless and disgusting.”

The main case involving allegations of genocide is not expected to go to trial until next year.

Richard Perez Pena, Raja Abdul Rahim and James C. McKinley Jr. Contributed reporting.

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