Photo by TPS on 12 January, 2024

International Court of Justice Orders Israel to Halt Rafah Operations

Public By Pesach Benson • 24 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 24 May, 2024 (TPS) -- The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to immediately halt its military operations in Rafah on Friday

Calling the humanitarian situation in Rafah “disastrous,” the court instructed Israel to cease its operations in the southern Gaza area, open the Rafah border crossing to unhindered humanitarian deliveries, and grant UN officials full access to Gaza to investigate potential war crimes.

Lebanese Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the court, said the ruling was issued by a vote of 13-2.

Salam added that the court was “troubled” by the continued captivity of the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas.

South Africa petitioned the court on May 17 to issue an immediate injunction against army operations, claiming Israel is committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people.

Israel accused South Africa of “distorting the truth,” “abusing court procedures,” and seeking to assist Hamas for political reasons. The Israeli delegation also argued that South Africa is trying to get the ICJ to “micromanage” the war, which is beyond the court’s mandate.

Although Israel is not a party to the ICJ and rejects its jurisdiction, an injunction could be enforced by the UN Security Council.

During hearings in mid-January, South Africa argued to the judges in the Hague that Israel’s military campaign was intended to cause “the destruction of the population” of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli representatives, led by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, rejected the claims, arguing that Israel has a right to defend itself, respects international law, and that Palestinian casualties were the result of Hamas embedding its tunnels and military infrastructure in civilian areas.

In a provisional ruling issued on January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel by a vote of 15-2 to “take all measures” to prevent “genocide” in Gaza, but did not order the implementation of a ceasefire.

Legal experts said it could take years for a final ruling on whether Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. However, a ruling on the genocide claim, while legally binding, would be difficult to enforce.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders are bracing for the possibility that the International Criminal Court, will approve Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan’s request to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohammed Deif.

A three-judge panel will rule on Khan’s request, but it isn’t clear when.

Although both the ICC and ICJ are based in the Hague, they are separate courts. Israel is not a party to the ICC.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 125 remaining hostages, 39 are believed dead.