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UN court orders Israel to halt its military assault in Rafah

Presiding Judge Nawaf Salam reads the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague   -  
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Peter Dejong/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


A United Nations court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, but stopped short of ordering a full ceasefire.

Reading out the ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) president, Nawaf Salam, said provisional measures ordered by the court in March did not fully address the situation in Gaza now, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.

The Hague-based court also ordered Israel to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave.

Salam quoted UN officials who have repeatedly warned that Israel’s military offensive in Rafah would have catastrophic consequences.

Over 800,000 of the more than one million people taking refuge in Rafah have fled the city since the Israeli operation began two weeks ago.

The case was brought to the ICJ by South Africa via an emergency measure, as part of its wider case in which it accuses Israel of orchestrating state-led genocide against the Palestinian people.

The World Court has not ruled on the substance of that accusation, which could take years, but has rejected Israel's demand to throw the case out.

The ICJ also said Israel must provide access to the enclave for any fact-finding or investigative mission sent by the UN to investigate the genocide allegations.

Friday’s ruling was the first time the UN court has told Israel to halt its military operations, as it previously ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide and allow aid to enter Gaza.

While the court’s rulings are final and binding, they have been ignored in the past and it has no enforcement powers.

While Israel is unlikely to comply with the order, it will ratchet up the pressure as it faces increasing international isolation.

Criticism of Israel's conduct in the war in Gaza has been growing, particularly on operations in Rafah, and even from its closest ally, the United States.

Both the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority have welcome the court’s decision.

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