The United Nations’ top court orders Israel to stop the Rafah offensive

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The United Nations Supreme Court has ordered Israel to “immediately cease” its military offensive in Rafah, the southern Gazan city that has become a refuge for more than 1 million civilians since the invasion. War between Israel and Hamas broke out last year.

Despite strong international pressure for restraint, Israeli forces entered the city earlier this month, and officials insisted the offensive was necessary to defeat Hamas, sparking a wave of riots. war with the October 7 attack on Israel.

However, in an order issued in response to an urgent request made by South Africa, the International Court of Justice on Friday said conditions in Rafah is a “disaster” and demands that Israel stop.

The court also ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow “large-scale unhindered delivery of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance,” and to allow allowed investigators to enter the area.

The ICJ has no way to enforce its orders – Russia continues to flout the court’s 2022 order suspending military operations in Ukraine. But Friday’s order added to intense international pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza, which has caused a humanitarian disaster in the enclave.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu His office said it expected to discuss the order with senior officials on Friday.

Far-right finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel would not agree to stop the war in Gaza. “Those who demand that the State of Israel stop the war, demand that the country itself make a decision to cease its existence,” he wrote on social network platform X. “If we Lay down your arms, the enemy will come to the beds of our children and women across the land.”

But internationally, pressure to end the war is increasing.

The EU’s chief diplomat said Friday’s ICJ ruling would force the bloc to choose between supporting “the rule of law”.[or]. . . Israeli”.

“We will have to choose between our support for international institutions and the rule of law, and our support for Israel,” Josep Borrell told a conference in Florence. Josep Borrell spoke at a conference in Florence, adding that both options “will be quite difficult”.

“We have been clear and consistent in our position on Rafah,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told the Financial Times when asked about the US reaction to the ICJ ruling . The US opposes Israel’s comprehensive invasion of Rafah without a plan to protect civilians.

An injured Palestinian boy stands next to a damaged house in Rafah
An injured Palestinian boy stands next to a damaged house in Rafah after Israeli attacks © AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court – which deals with crimes committed by individuals, not nations – request an arrest warrant pro-Netanyahu and defense minister Yoav Gallant, along with three Hamas leaders, said he had “reasonable grounds to believe” they were responsible for war crimes charges.

On Wednesday, Spain, Norway and Ireland pledged to recognize a Palestinian state next week. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that while Israel has the right to defend itself, its attack on Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 people, according to Palestinian officials, is putting the two-state solution “in jeopardy.” ”.

Netanyahu dismissed the ICC prosecutor’s move as a “distortion of reality” and insisted Israel would continue its offensive in Gaza – which it launched in response to the October 7 attack. of Hamas, in which the rebels killed 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage, according to Israel. officials – despite international criticism.

Gallant said Thursday that Israel is stepping up its attacks on Rafah and that 1 million civilians have fled the city since Israel began operations there on May 7.

According to witnesses and Palestinian social media, heavy Israeli airstrikes were reported in Rafah following Friday’s ICJ ruling; Israeli analysts speculated the target was the commander of the Hamas brigade in the area.

South Africa’s request is part of a lawsuit brought last year alleging Israeli is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has vehemently denied the allegations and the ICJ is unlikely to make a final decision on the case for years.

But the court has twice issued interim orders in the case. In January, it asked Israel to comply with international law on genocide and in March, to ensure more food and humanitarian aid reached Palestinians in Gaza, warning that famine was on the way. “outbreak”.

Israel does not recognize the ICC But they are members of the ICJ and that means they must carry out its orders.


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