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ICJ Orders Israel To Halt Rafah Offensive

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The UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), has issued a significant ruling, ordering Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah.”

This action follows a South African application last week, which called for several measures against Israel, accusing it of escalating what it claims to be genocide.

Israel has strongly denied these allegations and indicated that it would disregard any order to cease its operation.

Government spokesperson David Mencer told the BBC: “There is no power in the world that will push us to commit a public suicide, because that’s what this is, to stop our war against Hamas.”

A Hamas spokesmansaid: “We welcome the decision of the International Court of Justice, which demands that the brutal Zionist entity [Israel] stop its aggression” in Rafah.

Delivering the court’s ruling on Friday, presiding judge Nawaz Salam stated that “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other actions in the Rafah Governorate” that could lead to “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians, referring to what constitutes genocide under international law.

Judge Salam further stated that Israel must allow unrestricted access to Gaza for any UN body investigating genocide allegations. The ruling also reiterated that Israel must ensure the “unhindered provision at scale” of basic services and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“The humanitarian situation [in Gaza] is now to be characterized as disastrous,” the ruling said.

Aid agencies and the UN report that insufficient aid is reaching Gaza, which they say is on the brink of famine.

The UN halted food distribution in Rafah on Tuesday due to the dangerous conditions. Israel claims it has made “extensive efforts” to ensure humanitarian aid is “flowing into Gaza.”

Judge Salam also noted that the court found it “deeply troubling” that Israeli hostages were still being held by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, calling for their “immediate and unconditional release.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the ruling, labeling it an “abject moral failure” that the ICJ did not link their bombardment of Rafah to the release of the hostages.

Lapid argued that Israel was compelled to defend itself, stating: “There is no country in the world which wouldn’t defend itself against an attack like that.”

Shortly after the ruling was issued, Israeli warplanes launched a series of air strikes on the Shaboura camp in central Rafah.

A local activist at nearby Kuwait Hospital told the BBC that rescue teams were unable to reach the raid site due to the intensity of the strikes.

Israel initiated its offensive in Rafah about three weeks ago, aiming to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions. It believes that Israeli hostages are also being held in the town.

The UN reports that more than 800,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah since the offensive began, with about 1.5 million seeking shelter there from fighting in other parts of Gaza.

This hearing is part of a case brought by South Africa to the ICJ in December, alleging that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. The case remains ongoing.

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