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World Court set to rule on measures over Israel Rafah offensive

May 23, 2024 at 2:51 pm

Israeli artillery troops stationed at the Rafah border launch attack to southern Gaza Strip in Israel on May 08, 2024. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

The International Court of Justice will rule on Friday on South Africa’s request to order a halt to Israel’s Rafah offensive in Gaza, it said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Last week, South Africa had asked the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to order a halt to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and in Rafah in particular, saying this was necessary to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

The demand for such an emergency measure is part of a larger case brought before the Hague-based Court by South Africa, accusing Israel of genocide.

An Israeli government spokesman, speaking in Jerusalem ahead of the decision, said: “no power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza”.

ICJ decisions have, in the past, been ignored. The top UN legal body has no way to enforce its decisions, but they carry international weight. A ruling against Israel could add to its political isolation after a series of setbacks this week.

Several European countries said they would recognise a Palestinian State and the chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced an application for arrest warrants against Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, as well as leaders of Hamas.

READ: US warns Israel of ‘major insurgency’ if there is ‘full-on’ assault on Rafah

The ICC prosecutes individuals for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, while the ICJ is the highest UN body for disputes between states.

Genocide Convention

Israel has denounced South Africa’s claim that it is violating the 1948 Genocide Convention, saying this makes a mockery of the crime of genocide.

The Court has previously rejected Israel’s demand to throw out the case and has ordered it to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians, while stopping short of ordering a halt to Israeli military operations.

South Africa asked for additional emergency measures to protect Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have been sheltering. It also asked the panel of 15 permanent judges and one ad hoc Israeli judge to order Israel to allow unimpeded access to Gaza for UN officials, organisations providing humanitarian aid, journalists and investigators.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages according to Israeli tallies. More than 35,000 Palestinians have since been killed, with at least 10,000 more missing, Gaza’s Health Ministry says.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

READ: ICC arrest warrants would bar Netanyahu, Gallant from 124 countries