ICJ orders Israel to immediately halt military operation in Gaza’s Rafah

The ICJ court
Image Source : REUTERS The ICJ court

The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to immediately halt its military operations in Rafah. Although Israel is unlikely to comply, the order will mount pressure on the isolated country as its criticism over the conduct in the war, especially while dealing with Gaza has triggered resentment even in its closest ally, the United States.

The United States had earlier warned against an invasion of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have aggregated and sought shelter after intense fighting broke out in the entire Gaza. 

Furthermore, three European countries namely Spain, Ireland and Norway have announced less than a week ago they would recognise a Palestinian state mounting pressure on other European countries to follow. Also, the chief prosecutor for another UN court, the International Criminal Court (ICC), requested arrest warrants for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister is also facing heavy pressure at home to end the war. Fearing the time is running out, thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to break a deal to bring the hostages home.

Israel callws the order, a ‘moral failure’

The ruling by the top UN court is a blow to Israel’s international standing. Although the court’s orders are final and binding, the past incidents show that its decisions have been ignored in the past, a fate that the latest order is likely to face.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Avi Hyman, the government spokesperson said, “No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza.” 

Immediately after the ruling, Netanyahu announced that he would hold a special ministerial meeting to decide how to respond. Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition, derided the decision.

“The fact that the ICJ did not even directly connect the end of the military operation in Rafah to the release of the hostages and to Israel’s right to defend itself against terror is an abject moral failure,” he said.

What the ruling said?

Reading out the ruling, ICJ president Nawaf Salam said the situation in the Palestinian had worsened since the court last ordered Israel to take steps to improve it, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.

“The state of Israel shall (….) immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” he said.

Highlighting the humanitarian crisis as a result of war, Salam said that Israel had not explained how it would keep the population safe during an evacuation of Rafah, or provide food, water, sanitation and medicine for the 800,000 Palestinians that had already fled the Israeli advance.

The ICJ also ordered Israel to open the Rafah crossing to let the aid in from Egypt. Israel must provide access for investigators and report back on its progress within one month, it added.

The order was adopted by a vote of 13-2, opposed only by judges from Uganda and Israel itself.

South Africa hails the order

South Africa, which had earlier filed a case against Israel for conducting alleged genocide hailed the ruling and called it groundbreaking.

The internationally recognised Palestinian Authority also said that it represented a global consensus that the war must end, although presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the order is not enough as it did not halt fighting in other parts of Gaza.

(With Inputs from agencies)

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