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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UN court orders Israel to let food into Gaza

With famine spreading, the Jewish state must immediately open more border crossing points, the ICJ’s judges have ruled

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to allow uninterrupted shipments of food into Gaza. Before issuing the legally-binding order, the Hague-based court warned that “famine is setting in” in the besieged enclave.

Issued on Thursday, the order commands Israel to take “all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision…of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance,” including food, water, and medicine.

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The ruling comes two months after the court ruled that “the state of Israel shall take all measures to prevent the commission of genocide in Gaza,” including by blocking humanitarian aid shipments.

“The court observes that Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine … but that famine is setting in,” the judges wrote in Thursday’s ruling. Israel can help alleviate this looming famine “by increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary,” they noted.

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The Israeli military controls all entry and exit points to Gaza except the Rafah crossing between the enclave and Egypt. However, Cairo allows Israel to determine when the crossing can be opened, and Israeli troops inspect every truck that passes. Every other crossing has been shut since Israel imposed a siege on Gaza immediately after Hamas militants attacked the Jewish state on October 7, and aid groups say that the trickle of supplies passing the Rafah crossing is insufficient to feed Gaza’s starving population.

A UN-backed report warned last week that more than 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are facing “catastrophic hunger,” and that famine conditions now exist in the northern part of the enclave. At least 27 children have already starved to death, the ICJ judges noted on Thursday.

Thursday’s order was requested by South Africa, which filed a legal action last year accusing Israel of committing “systematic” war crimes and genocide in Gaza. Israel denies that it is committing genocide and insists that its military campaign against Hamas – which has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children – is legitimate self defense.