International Court of Justice (ICJ): Israel must halt Rafah offensive and open crossings to aid

MiddleEastEye/cc. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that Israel must halt its offensive in Gaza’s Rafah, following a plea from South Africa.
  The court issued a ruling in January that Israel must do everything to prevent genocidal acts being committed in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
  However, South Africa argued that Israel’s recent ground attack in Rafah, preceded by months of bombardment, changed the situation on the ground and should compel the court to issue fresh emergency orders.
  ICJ President Nawaf Salam said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was now “disastrous” and said earlier measures issued were insufficient.
  “Israel must 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, reading out the judgment to the court.
  He added that Israel needed to reopen the Rafah crossing and “ensure the unimpeded access of commissions of inquiry or investigative bodies mandated by the UN to investigate allegations of genocide”.
  In its fourth submission to the ICJ last week, South Africa had requested new emergency measures over Israel’s incursion in Rafah as part of its ongoing case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, including a halt to all military operations in the enclave.
  The measures were in addition to the nine provisional measures requested by South Africa in its submission to the court in January, which included a call for Israel to halt military operations in Gaza. The court did not deliver this key order, but called on Israel to ensure its troops do not commit genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza, allow more humanitarian aid to flow in and preserve any evidence of violations.
  Israel’s invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have sought refuge, was heavily opposed by many in the international community, including Israel’s allies.
  But despite public US opposition, the Israeli military earlier this month launched a ground assault on the city – and seized the crossing with Egypt used to bring aid in.
  Several countries have welcomed the ICJ’s decision, for example Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Norway. “No country in the world is above the law. We expect all decisions taken by the Court to be quickly implemented by Israel,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
  “Egypt stresses that Israel bears full legal responsibility for the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip as the occupying power,” Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs tweeted. Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that she expects all parties to follow international law. “We will have to choose between our support to international institutions of the rule of law or our support to Israel,” the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in reply to the ruling.
  Israel reacted to the ruling with outrage. Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel has no intention of following the ICJ’s decision, and will continue fighting in Rafah – and added that it is already in line with international law.
  “The order of the antisemitic court in the Hague should have only one answer – the occupation of Rafah, the increase of military pressure and the defeat of Hamas, until complete victory in the war is achieved,” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, speaking to Israeli media.
  Far-right Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich said that Israel would not agree to stop its war on Gaza, as that would be tantamount to it “decree[ing] itself to cease to exist”.
  “We continue to fight for ourselves and for the entire free world. History will judge who today stood by the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS”, he said in a post on X.
  Local media reported Israeli planes bombing Salah al-Din Gate leading to Rafah crossing and the crowded Shabura camp at the heart of the city shortly after the ICJ decision was made.
  The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ruling. “The presidency welcomes the decision issued by the International Court of Justice, which represents an international consensus on the demand to stop the all-out war on Gaza”, Palestinian presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.
  Hamas, the Palestinian group that runs Gaza, also welcomed the ruling but said it did not go far enough and urged for an end to Israel’s offensive on all of Gaza.
  “We call upon the UN Security Council to immediately implement this demand by the World Court into practical measures to compel the Zionist enemy to implement the decision”, Hamas official Basem Naim told Reuters.
  The Biden administration did not immediately comment on the ICJ’s order on Friday by the time of publication, or the renewed calls to suspend arms transfers to Israel, and it’s unclear what the official response from the Biden administration will look like.
  While Washington has spoken out strongly against Israel’s “genocide case” at the ICJ, it has repeatedly said that it will not support a “full-scale” ground invasion of Rafah without a credible plan from Israel on how to minimise civilian suffering.
  Amnesty International also reiterated the call to halt the Rafah offensive. “The ground incursion and the associated mass forced displacement it has caused, pose further irreparable risk to the rights of the Palestinian people protected under the Genocide Convention”, Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said.
  “The Israeli authorities must completely halt military operations in Rafah, as any ongoing military action could constitute an underlying act of genocide.”
  Such calls were joined by other civil rights groups, including Democracy for the Arab World Now, with executive director Sarah Leah Whitson saying the ICJ’s order “leaves no ambiguity about what should follow: an arms embargo on Israel”.
  The Israeli assault has deepened an already perilous humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, with vital aid routes, through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, blocked. More than 810,000 people have fled Rafah in the past two weeks, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Monday, 20 May.  •

Sources: of 24 May 2024; of 24 May 2024

Order of the ICJ of 24 May 2024

The International Court of Justice today delivered its Order on the request for the modification and the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa on 10 May 2024 in the case concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel).

In its Order, the Court:

“(1) By thirteen votes to two,
Reaffirms the provisional measures indicated in its Orders of 26 January 2024 and 28 March 2024, which should be immediately and effectively implemented;

(2) Indicates the following provisional measures:
The State of Israel shall, in conformity with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and in view of the worsening conditions of life faced by civilians in the Rafah Governorate:

(a) By thirteen votes to two,
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;

(b) By thirteen votes to two,
Maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance;

(c) By thirteen votes to two,
Take effective measures to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide;

(3) By thirteen votes to two,
Decides that the State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order, within one month as from the date of this Order”.

from 24 May 2024

Rafah 13–20 May 2024

From the report of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS)

Rafah crossing remains closed since 7 May which leads to the deterioration of the already devasted humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
  According to the UN, nearly 800,000 people were displaced from Rafah towards Khan Younis & Deir Al Balah causing an increase in the humanitarian needs.
  Patients transfer through Rafah crossing is not allowed by the occupation.
  No humanitarian aid is allowed into the Gaza Strip: no fuel, no gas, no food and no relief items are reaching to Palestinians.
  The health care system in Rafah continues to deteriorate & suffering a rising shortage of essential medical supplies.
  PRCS branch in Khirbet Al Adas in eastern Rafah was damaged due to heavy bombardment.
  PRCS is running its humanitarian operations in Rafah from PRCS facility in Al Mawasi in Khan Younis governorate (western Rafah).
  EMS teams are prevented from working in the eastern Rafah. Therefore, EMS teams have been distributed on 4 locations in the governorate to ensure rapid response.
  Al Quds medical post is operational since the start of February 2024.
  Medical services at Al Nasr medical, Al Attar & Park points are halted due to heavy bombardment in the area. One medical point (Tel Al Sultan in western Rafah) is still operational in Rafah.
  Two IDPs camps are still in Rafah after dismantling a third one to be moved to Al Mawasi Khan Younis.
  Aid consignments are halted due to the closure of Rafah crossing by the occupation.

Source: Humanitarian Response Report PRCS
 from 13–20 May 2024

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