The International Court of Justice orders Israel to immediately stop its military offensive in Rafah

The International Court of Justice orders Israel to immediately stop its military offensive in Rafah
The International Court of Justice orders Israel to immediately stop its military offensive in Rafah

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest court, has ordered Israel to “immediately” stop its military offensive in Rafah. The decisions of the ICJ, although legally binding, have no means of coercion to ensure their application.

This decision follows a request from South Africa, which had seized the ICJ to demand the cessation of Israeli military operations and the facilitation of access to humanitarian aid. Pretoria described Israel’s actions as “genocide”, citing mass graves, torture and obstruction of humanitarian aid.

Israel has rejected the accusations, calling them a “caricature” of the United Nations Genocide Convention. Before its ground incursion, the Israeli army had ordered mass evacuations in Rafah, claiming to want to destroy Hamas infrastructure and free the hostages. According to the UN, these operations have displaced 800,000 people and a million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from “catastrophic hunger”.

The ICJ had already issued an order in January, ordering Israel to prevent any act of genocide and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid, without requiring a ceasefire. The evolution of the situation, particularly in Rafah, led Pretoria to request a new intervention from the ICJ.

The move comes shortly after International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister, and three Hamas leaders for alleged crimes in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Reacting to South Africa’s request, the ICJ ordered Israel to end “all military operations” in the Gaza Strip, ruling that the evacuation measures taken by Israel were not enough to protect Palestinian civilians . ICJ President Nawaf Salam said: “Israel must immediately end its military offensive in Rafah.”

Israel contested the move, arguing that a forced ceasefire would allow Hamas fighters to reorganize and jeopardize the release of hostages captured during the October 7 Hamas attack. Israel maintains that the accusations made are “completely disconnected” from reality.

ICJ orders, although legally binding, cannot be imposed directly. No legal recourse is available to the countries involved after such a decision.

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