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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

ICJ orders Israel to end Rafah offensive

The humanitarian situation in the city has “deteriorated further” since the Hague-based court’s last ruling

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to halt its ongoing military operation in the Palestinian city of Rafah, as it is “not convinced” that the Israeli military’s evacuation orders are doing enough to protect civilians.

Reading out the court’s order on Friday, ICJ head Nawaf Salam said that its justices were “not convinced that the evacuation efforts and the related measures that Israel affirms to have undertaken” are sufficient to “alleviate the immense risk” to civilians in Rafah.

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“Israel must immediately hold its military offensive of [sic] any other action in the Rafah governorate,” Salam continued, warning that failure to do so could bring about the wholesale destruction of life in the city.

Situated in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt, Rafah hosted around 1.4 million Palestinian refugees displaced from other areas of the enclave until earlier this month, when Israel ordered around half that number to evacuate the city as it sent tanks and troops into its eastern neighborhoods.

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The ICJ has already ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent genocide in Gaza, and to take action to improve conditions for its two million residents. However, Salam said that the humanitarian situation has “deteriorated further” since the court’s last order in March, and is now classified as “disastrous.”

South Africa, which brought genocide charges against Israel at the ICJ in December, requested this month that its judges order an end to the Rafah operation. “Those who have survived so far are facing imminent death now, and an order from the court is needed to ensure their survival,” Pretoria’s filing read.

While the ICJ’s rulings are legally binding, it lacks any means of enforcing them. Israel is unlikely to comply with Friday’s order, with a government spokesman telling reporters on Thursday that “no power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that an invasion of Rafah is necessary to root out Hamas’ remaining battalions and achieve “total victory” over the militants.

Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, after the militant group killed around 1,100 Israelis and took another 250 to Gaza as hostages. After almost eight months of fighting, more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

A UN-backed report warned in March that more than 70% of Gaza’s population is facing catastrophic hunger, while the World Food Program stated last week that a “full-blown famine” had developed in the north of the enclave.