ICJ orders Israel to halt Rafah offensive

todayMay 24, 2024 34

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive and any other actions that could compromise the lives of Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Rafah is on the border with Egypt. More than one million people, fleeing fighting elsewhere, sought refuge there in recent months and Israel believes the city is Hamas’ last major stronghold.

In its ruling delivered this afternoon, the UN’s top court described the humanitarian situation in Rafah as disastrous.

It said it was not convinced that Israel had done enough to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, as per the court’s initial order.

In another historic move, South Africa returned to the ICJ in May, to seek an urgent order for the protection of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The ruling is expected to increase international legal pressure on Israel.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has welcomed the news as groundbreaking.

The director-general of the department, Zane Dangor, was part of the South African delegation that went to The Hague for the initial hearing in January.

He says while the court cannot use the term ceasefire, the terminology used in today’s ruling in a way means exactly that.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), however, believes peace in the matter needs to be made through political negotiations and not legal institutions.

“This is especially when the ICJ has no jurisdiction over the brutal terror organisation Hamas. South Africa could have done so much more to prevent loss of life from the outset, by using its relationship with Hamas and its history of engagement and dialogue, as a way to resolve conflict rather than these ongoing legal challenges. South Africa could have done so on the 8th of October, with the potential of thousands of lives being saved,” the organisation says in a statement.

The contentious ICJ’s ruling comes amid growing international criticism against Israel’s conduct in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Just this week alone, seven European Union member countries, including Slovakia, Sweden and Cyprus, recognised Palestine.

The ICC’s top prosecutor also rubbed salt into the wound, announcing his team’s intention to put top Israeli and Hamas leaders on trial for the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is also under pressure at home to end the conflict, with demonstrators calling for the government to clinch a deal with Hamas so that the militants can return the hostages they took when they ambushed Israel last October, in a move that sparked the raging war.

So far, 35 800 people have been confirmed dead since the beginning of the unrest.

Prior to the verdict, Netanyahu in a string of tweets had expressed his commitment to bring the Israeli hostages home.

The reactions of social media users have been varied.

Written by: Lindiwe Mabena

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