The International Court of Justice orders Israel to halt Rafah offensive

Friday, 24 May 2024 - 19:31

The UN’s top court orders Israel to “immediately” halt its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafa, calls humanitarian situation “disastrous.”
More than 900,000 Palestinians have been displaced by fighting in just two weeks and now lack shelter, food, water and medicine.

The ICJ ordered Israel to report to the court within one month on its progress in applying the measures ordered today.

As a reminder, while ICJ rulings are legally binding, in practice they are unenforceable by the court.

This is the first time the ICJ has issued a ruling that compels Israel to significantly change its military operation in Gaza.

The international panel of judges said that Israel had not convinced them that the evacuation efforts and related measures that Israel affirms to have undertaken to enhance the security of civilians in the Gaza Strip, and in particular those recently displaced from from Rafah, are sufficient to alleviate the immense risk to which the Palestinian population is exposed as a result of the military offensive in Rafah.

The case was brought by South Africa under the genocide convention, created 1948 after the Holocaust to give legal foundation to the words never again.

South Africa argued Palestinian's inalienable right to protection under that convention was at risk of being violated and called on the ICJ, the UN's highest court, as guardian of that treaty - to step in.

Today's decision isn't about whether or not genocidal acts are being committed in Gaza, but rather whether there is a plausible risk to the Palestinian peoples right to protection.

This order is designed to act as an injunction to stop the situation from deteriorating or at least keep it in a kind of holding pattern, until the judges consider the wider merits of the case.

This request is part of a broader case brought by South Africa against Israel, concerning its actions in Gaza. The case argues that Israel's military strategies in the region are disproportionate and violate international law.

In response, Israel has defended its offensive in Rafah as crucial for defeating Hamas, particularly following the attacks on October 7. Israeli authorities have dismissed South Africa's allegations as "wholly unfounded."

The ICJ, recognized as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has the authority to issue legally binding decisions in disputes between nations. However, the enforcement of its rulings remains a significant challenge, as the court relies on the compliance of the international community and the involved parties.

As tensions continue to escalate, the ICJ's ruling adds a new dimension to the ongoing conflict, highlighting the complexities and the international ramifications of the situation in Gaza.

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