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ICJ rules Israel must stop Rafah operation, what’s next? | Gaza News

The International Court of Justice has issued a legally binding order for Israel to end its invasion of Rafah.

The International Court of Justice has called on Israel to end its operations in Rafah, the southernmost town of Gaza.

Over the past two weeks, Israel has reduced entire neighborhoods of Rafah to rubble and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Israel says it must move to Rafah to complete its mission to defeat Hamas. However, the ICJ ruled that Israel’s war aims did indeed violate Palestinian rights under the Genocide Convention.

Here’s everything you need to know about the ICJ’s new orders.

What was the ICJ’s decision on South Africa’s case against Israel?

According to the court, Israel must stop its offensive on Rafah.

The court was not convinced that Israel had taken sufficient measures to protect civilian life and voted – 13 judges to two – that Israel must take effective measures to allow any UN-backed commission of inquiry to enter Gaza and investigate allegations of genocide.

The court also reaffirmed its previous ruling on January 26 that Israel must increase its aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

“The ICJ is basically saying: OK, enough is enough,” said Alonso Gurmendi, an international law specialist at King’s College London. “This is a fairly substantial order…it (reflects) a loss of patience (with Israel) in my opinion. »

Director-General of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Zane Dangor, and South African Ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, at the ICJ, where South Africa is seeking further information emergency measures following Israeli attacks on Rafah, in The Hague, Netherlands, May 16, 2024 (Yves Herman/Reuters)

What was South Africa’s complaint against Israel?

South Africa initially filed an emergency request for Israel to end its Rafah offensive, but later expanded its demand for a complete ceasefire in Gaza.

Will this end the Israeli attack on Rafah?

Minutes after the decision was issued, reports emerged of Israeli air raids on Rafah.

For the moment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not made any official statement. But analysts say Israel will continue to violate the ICJ order.

Legal scholars and analysts said Israel refused to comply with the ICJ’s interim measures on January 26. The ICJ had called on Israel to increase its assistance to protect the rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention.

Gurmendi added that the new interim measure increases pressure on Western states that arm Israel.

“How can you justify the sale of weapons for Israel to use in Rafah? I don’t think you can. I think it’s legally impossible,” he said. “So while this (ICJ order) will not stop the operation in Rafah itself, it adds pressure on the idea that it is acceptable to continue selling weapons to Israel.

What else did the ICJ say?

He ordered Israel to open the Rafah crossing to allow the unhindered delivery of aid.

“The order is (legally) binding on Israel. Previous (ICJ) orders (to increase aid) have already warned states that there is an imminent risk of genocide and that their duty – under the Genocide Convention – to prevent this has therefore already been triggered,” said Heidi Matthews, attorney. researcher at York University in Toronto.

“Obviously some people will be disappointed that there hasn’t been a full ceasefire order. This is still a big step forward, but it is not a complete ceasefire,” she added.

A reaction from Palestine or Palestinian groups?

Hamas welcomed the ICJ’s decisions. He said in a statement that Israel continues to commit massacres in the Gaza Strip. The group added that it expects the court to eventually order Israel to end its war across the entire besieged strip.

“What is happening in Jabalia and other governorates in the Gaza Strip is no less criminal and dangerous than what is happening in Rafah. »

“We call on the international community and the United Nations to put pressure on the occupation to immediately comply with this decision and to seriously and truly translate all UN resolutions that oblige the Zionist occupying army to put an end to the genocide she has been committing against our people for more than seven months.

How did Israel react?

The response from Israeli officials has been largely provocative.

Many officials reiterated their earlier accusations that the court was aiding “terrorists.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Israel was in a “war for its existence,” adding that stopping the Rafah invasion was tantamount to demanding that Israel “cease to exist.”

He warned that stopping the assault meant that “the enemy would reach the beds of our children and women throughout the country.” He later tweeted that “history will judge who stood with the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS (ISIL).”

Will the ICJ be able to implement Friday’s decision?

They have no coercive power within the United Nations system. Law enforcement relies on tribunal members fulfilling their obligations under international law and the UN Security Council.

How is this court hearing different from the previous one?

Both hearings aimed to end Israel’s devastating war against Gaza. Experts told Al Jazeera that the new ICJ orders intensify pressure on Israel and allied states to protect Palestinians and end their war on Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 people and rendered l effectively uninhabitable enclave.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party.
Israeli Finance Minister and head of the Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich (Gil Cohen Magen/AFP)

And after?

ICJ orders are legally binding. However, the Court’s decision will now be discussed at the UN Security Council, where states can decide to act together to enforce the Court’s orders. Security Council resolutions are also legally binding.

However, the United States has a veto, which it has historically used to protect Israel from the consequences of violating international law.

On April 18, the United States vetoed a proposed resolution that would have made Palestine the 194th member of the UN.

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