ICJ orders immediate halt to Israel’s invasion of Rafah – National & International News – FRI 24May2024

ICJ orders immediate halt to Israel’s invasion of Rafah. Israel’s defiance further erodes their international standing and ours.

ICJ orders immediate halt to Israel’s invasion of Rafah

Earlier this year, South Africa brought a genocide case against Israel at the the International Court of Justice in the Hague. On January 26, the court found that there was a plausible risk of genocide against the Palestinians. While the Court did not grant South Africa’s request for an order an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza altogether, the panel did issue preliminary orders to Israel. These orders included protecting civilian life, ensuring the flow of aid into Gaza, and ensuring the preservation of evidence needed for the genocide inquiry (which will take years).

The Court later reaffirmed these orders on March 28, when South Africa presented evidence that Israel was not abiding by them and that the humanitarian situation in Gaza had worsened considerably since January.

Today, the ICJ, responding to a request by South Africa, ordered an immediate halt to Israel’s military offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. For the last 7 months, about 1.5 million Palestinians displaced from Northern Gaza had sheltered in tents in Rafah. Rafah was Gaza’s last place of (relative) safety and the sole land corridor for food, water and other humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. Since Israel launched its invasion of Rafah on May 7, over 800,000 people were displaced, most of them for at least the second time. 

The court was not convinced by Israel’s assertions that it was doing all it could to protect civilian life and that it was allowing all possible aid to enter Gaza. The judges reiterated their order to allow in aid into Gaza, unobstructed. Furthermore, the court ordered Israel to allow UN investigators into Gaza to collect and preserve evidence for the Court’s ongoing inquiry into the question of genocide in Gaza. Israel has been blocking UN investigators from both Israel and Gaza since October 7.

Reaction and what happens next

Israeli government spokespeople stated, both yesterday and prior to the January ICJ rulings, that they would not halt their military action in Rafah no matter what the court ruled. As if to confirm this, Israel actually stepped up its bombing campaign in Rafah following today’s ruling.

Since Israel has so far failed to meaningfully adhere to the ICJ’s previous orders, few expected that today’s ruling would immediately change the reality on the ground. However, recent developments suggest that Israel’s defiance may now be more costly to them in terms of their international standing, and that of the US.

Two days ago, Ireland, Spain and Norway committed to officially recognizing the state of Palestine. There’s talk that other EU nations may soon join them.

Following today’s ruling, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU would have to stake a position. “We will have to choose between our support to international institutions of the rule of law or our support to Israel,” Borrell said. 

As of this writing, the White House has notably remained silent on today’s ruling from the ICJ. Biden has previously said he would halt weapons shipments to Israel if there was a full invasion of Rafah. Despite the invasion being in full swing, Biden’s “red line” has so far failed to materialize. Rights groups are demanding that Biden halt all weapons transfers to Israel in light of the ICJ’s orders.

Israel still in peril from the other Hague Court

More consequentially, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (separate from the ICJ) announced this week that they were seeking arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on war crimes charges. Chief prosecutor Karim Khan hinted that he may seek more warrants for other individuals on further charges.

If warrants are issued, ICC member-states will be obligated to arrest Netanyahu or Gallant if they set foot on their soil and deliver them to the Hague. The US is not an ICC member-state, but all EU nations are and take their commitments to such international institutions seriously. While Israel called on “civilized nations” to reject the warrants, France and Germany (usually a staunch ally of Israel) announced they would honor the warrants if they are issued.

Meanwhile in the US, the Biden administration is working with members of Congress to craft a (possibly legislative) response to the ICC in retaliation for its accusations against Netanyahu and Gallant. This response may include sanctions on individual officers of the court.


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