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UN court orders stoppage of Israeli military activity in Rafah

Seats of the judges at the International Court of Justice Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong

UN court orders stoppage of Israeli military activity in Rafah

The United Nations’ International Court of Justice ruled on Friday that Israel must stop all military offensives in the area around Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip. The order came from a case in which South Africa accused Israel of violating the UN’s Genocide Convention during its activity in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 invasion. Israeli officials are unlikely to comply with the order.

What does the order include? The court also ordered Israel to keep the Rafah crossing open for basic services and humanitarian assistance. It calls for Israel to allow unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip for any UN-mandated investigation into allegations of genocide, according to the order. The order also mandates Israel to submit a report within the month detailing measures taken in compliance with the court’s order. The court already ordered Israel to allow more aid into Gaza with its last order to Israel in March.

What explanation did they give for the ruling? The 15-judge panel was not convinced that Israel’s evacuation efforts truly kept Palestinians safe or reduced the risk brought by the military offensive in Rafah. Mass displacements along with the Israeli offensive have brought exceptionally grave conditions to Rafah and bred a catastrophic humanitarian situation, the court wrote.

How has Israel responded? No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its people and going after Hamas in Gaza, said Israeli spokesman Avi Hyman hours before the ICJ ruling. Other Israeli leaders did not comment on the order at the time of publication. Although the ICJ’s rulings are supposed to be binding and final, there is no police agency to force compliance. Russia ignored the court’s 2022 order to stop its invasion of Ukraine.

Dig deeper: Read Josh Schumacher’s report in The Sift on Israel’s military recovering the bodies of three hostages taken by Hamas a day before the ICJ order.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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