Home News The UN tribunal’s ruling increased international pressure on Israel over its conduct...

The UN tribunal’s ruling increased international pressure on Israel over its conduct in the war.

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The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday that Israel must immediately halt its military offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, dealing another blow to a country facing growing international isolation.

The court had no way to enforce its order, with Israel saying the ruling’s wording left some room for interpretation. Israel’s hard-line politicians immediately vowed that Israel would not comply.

Still, the 13-2 vote puts more pressure on Netanyahu’s government over its management of the war, which authorities in Gaza say has killed at least 35,000 people, both combatants and civilians, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee multiple times to escape Israeli bombardments that have devastated much of Gaza.

Reading the ruling, the court’s president, Nawaf Salam, said: “The Court considers 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 lead to the physical destruction of the Palestinian community in Gaza in whole or in part.”

The ruling is the latest in a series of condemnations of Israel over its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The court stressed the need for “unhindered and massive provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance by all parties”, including keeping open land crossings, especially the Rafah crossing, which Israel occupied two weeks ago. The court ordered Israel to “immediately take all effective measures to ensure and facilitate unhindered access to Gaza for UN investigators”. The judges also ordered Israel to submit a report within one month on the measures it has taken to implement the decision.

Last week, a South African legal team urged the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, to further restrict Israel’s incursion into Rafah, calling it “the final step in the destruction of Gaza and its people”.

The Israeli military says it has been conducting a precise, targeted offensive against Hamas in Rafah since early May, with fighting ongoing in neighborhoods near the city center. More than a million people from other parts of Gaza have taken refuge in Rafah, but most fled this month.

Israel’s deputy attorney general for international law Gilad Noam and other Israeli lawyers rejected the allegations in court last week, calling the South African case a “perversion of reality.”

In a statement, the Israeli government said its army “did not and would not” take actions that would have resulted in the killing of some or all of the civilians in Rafah. In fact, the Israeli government said the court’s ruling had nothing to do with the Israeli offensive because the Israeli army did not commit prohibited acts.

Satellite images of Rafah from May 22 showed destruction and cleanup extending about four miles into the Gaza Strip, from the Israeli border to the center of Rafah.

Some far-right allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the court order and suggested Israel should not comply. “There should be one response: occupy Rafah, increase military pressure, and completely defeat Hamas until total victory is achieved,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a statement.

Adil Haq, a law professor at Rutgers Law School, said the ruling limits Israel’s offensive in and around Rafah but leaves it some room to defend itself.

“Large-scale military operations in and around Rafah will most likely not be considered, as they would result in massive civilian deaths and displacement,” he said. “But in principle, targeted operations in response to rocket attacks or to rescue hostages should still be considered.”

He added: “Israel can choose the legally safe approach, severely limiting its actions, or the legally risky approach, testing the patience of the courts.”

In a separate opinion, South African judge Dire Tladi of the International Court of Justice clarified that “legitimate defensive actions taken to repel a specific attack, within the strict observance of international law” are consistent with the ICJ’s ruling. But “continuation of offensive military operations in Rafah and elsewhere” is not.

South Africa believes that Israel’s control of the two main border crossings in southern Gaza – Rafah and Kerem Shalom – has prevented aid from entering Gaza, leaving Gaza in “unprecedented humanitarian needs.” According to UN data, few aid trucks have entered Gaza, but many commercial trucks – those carrying goods for sale rather than free distribution – have entered the Gaza Strip.

The hearing is part of a South African case. December SubmissionThe court accused Israel of genocide, which it strongly denies. Order Israel to do more The main part of the case, which deals with genocide, is not expected to begin until next year.

In March, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel in its strongest terms yet to stop obstructing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip to deal with the region’s severe famine, open more border crossings to deliver supplies and “cooperate fully” with the United Nations.

Judge Salam said the situation in Gaza had continued to deteriorate since March and was now “catastrophic.”

Israel launched the military operation in retaliation for an October 7 attack that officials said killed 1,200 people and abducted about 250 people to Gaza. The International Court of Justice once again called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of hostages still being held by Hamas and other armed groups.

Lauren Leatherby Contributed reporting.

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