UN Supreme Court demands immediate halt to Rafah offensive

Status: 24.05.2024 16:11

Israel must immediately end its offensive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The humanitarian situation in the city is “catastrophic,” the International Court of Justice said in its justification. It thus partially granted a request from South Africa.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has called on Israel to immediately end its military offensive in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. The court thereby partially granted an urgent application by South Africa. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has continued to deteriorate, said the president of the court, Nawaf Salam. In Rafah, it is now “catastrophic”.

However, Israel had already signaled in advance that it would not comply with such an order from the ICJ. “No power in the world will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and taking action against Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” said government spokesman Avi Hyman on Thursday.

Decisions of the World Court are binding. However, the UN judges have no power to force a state to implement them. Russia, for example, has so far ignored a decision from 2022 to stop its attack on neighboring Ukraine. The UN judges can, however, call on the UN Security Council to take action on the matter.

ICJ: Israel must prevent genocide

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ICJ’s decision. The ruling represents an “international consensus” that the war in the Gaza Strip must end, said a spokesman for the authority.

South Africa had turned to the court and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli military from the entire Gaza Strip – including the troops in Rafah. The reason given was that the court’s previous measures in connection with the war in the Gaza Strip were not sufficient.

South Africa has already called for urgent action against Israel on several occasions. This is being done as part of the genocide complaint that the country filed with the court in December. In two decisions, the UN judges had already obliged Israel to do everything possible to prevent genocide and to allow humanitarian aid.

Israel rejects allegations

Israel had rejected accusations of genocide in the Gaza Strip before the International Court of Justice as baseless. The country invoked its right to self-defense after terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and abducting more than 250 people in the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of May, Israel’s army says it has been carrying out “targeted” operations in the border town of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, where it aims to locate and destroy the last remaining Hamas battalions.

More criticism and arrest warrants

Criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war has recently increased. Even the closest ally, the USA, warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a large-scale offensive in the city of Rafah, where more than a million internally displaced people have sought protection from the fighting in other parts of the Gaza Strip. After almost eight months of war, Rafah is the last halfway intact city in the Gaza Strip.

The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants against Netanyahu and his defense minister Joav Galant as well as three leaders of the militant Islamist Palestinian organization Hamas for alleged crimes against humanity.

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