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ICJ Drops the Hammer: Israel Ordered to Halt Rafah Offensive Immediately

In a historic ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to immediately cease its military operations in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. The decision, which was passed with a 13-2 vote, also mandates the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow the entry of humanitarian aid.

The ICJ’s ruling comes in response to a case brought forward by South Africa, accusing Israel of committing acts of genocide. The court cited an “immediate risk” to the Palestinian population, noting that over 800,000 people had been forced to flee Rafah since Israeli forces began ground operations. The court’s president, Judge Nawaf Salam, stated that Israel had failed to sufficiently address and dispel concerns raised by its offensive.

Despite the ICJ’s order being legally binding, Israel has indicated it would not accept a court order to end the war against Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with legal advisors to review the ruling. Israeli Opposition leader Yair Lapid also criticized the ruling, saying the court had not made a connection between the fighting in Rafah and the return of Israeli hostages.

Hamas, on the other hand, welcomed the decision, expressing expectations for the ICJ to issue a similar decision for the whole of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in the enclave continues to escalate, with the Israeli military pressing ahead with the deadly offensive it launched on October 7.

The ICJ’s order follows an urgent plea by South Africa as part of its ongoing case at the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, accusing Israel of genocidal acts in its monthslong assault on Gaza. The case will likely take years to resolve, but South Africa sought interim orders to protect Palestinians.

In the latest developments, Israel has called the ICJ’s binding order to immediately stop its assault on Rafah “outrageous, morally repugnant and disgusting”, and says accusations it is committing genocide in Gaza “are false”. The UN’s emergency aid chief says Israel’s war on Gaza has been “a tragedy beyond words”, and it must “end this nightmare”.

In the face of global condemnation over the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, the Israeli armed forces persist in their lethal campaign. The deadlock in ceasefire negotiations has further burdened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the task of ensuring the safe return of captives still in Gaza. This situation underscores the urgency and complexity of the ongoing conflict.

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