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ICJ to rule on request to halt Israel's Rafah offensive

May 24, 2024 at 9:04 am

A view of the symbols and banner left on the road as a group of pro-Palestine protesters gather with banners outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and show solidarity with the people of Gaza against Israeli attacks in The Hague, Netherlands on April 08, 2024. [ Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

Judges at the UN’s top court will today rule on South Africa’s request to order Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and withdraw from Gaza, part of a wider case accusing Israel of genocide, Reuters reports.

South Africa’s lawyers asked the court last week to impose emergency measures, and said Israel’s attacks on the southern Gaza city “must be stopped” to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

Rulings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, are final and binding, but have been ignored in the past. The court has no enforcement powers.

Israel has repeatedly dismissed the accusations of genocide as baseless.

An Israeli government spokesman said yesterday that “no power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza.”

A decision against Israel by the highest UN legal body could pile more diplomatic pressure on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel ‘unprepared’ to sign off on Gaza ceasefire deal: Egyptian source

Several European countries said yesterday they would recognise a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – also based in The Hague – announced on Monday he had filed an application for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as leaders of Hamas.

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.

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

Israel has killed more than 35,800 Palestinians in Gaza alone since October 2023 and forcibly displaced more than 70 per cent of the enclave’s residents, many several times. It has now launched an offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah where it had told Palestinian fleeing its bombs to move in order to remain “safe”. Trapped in the besieged enclave, Palestinians have nowhere to go but to the sea, where there is no fresh water source or aid deliveries.