International Court of Justice orders Israel to halt Rafah attack, with situation in southern Gaza city 'disastrous'

24 May 2024, 15:16

Israel has been ordered to stop its assault on Rafah
Israel has been ordered to stop its assault on Rafah. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to stop its offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah and withdraw its troops.

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The ICJ, the UN's top court, said the situation in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of people took shelter after the start of Israel's war with Hamas, had become "disastrous".

The court also ordered Israel to open the Rafah crossing for emergency aid, and to report back on its progress in a month.

Israel is also not doing enough to comply with evacuation orders, the court said.

The Israeli government is unlikely to comply with the ruling, which comes after South Africa lodged an emergency request with the court for it to order a halt to the fighting.

Read more: Three more Israeli hostages found dead in Gaza, as army says Hamas killed them on October 7

Read more: 'The world needs to know': Grant Shapps urges Israel to reveal plan for Gaza after war with Hamas ends

Palestinians search the rubble of their house which was destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in Rafah
Palestinians search the rubble of their house which was destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in Rafah. Picture: Getty

Israeli leaders have said that they are committed to rooting out Hamas, whose members led an attack that killed 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 last year.

Some 800,000 have been forced to flee Rafah since Israeli forces moved in earlier this month.

The assault on Rafah is part of continued efforts to destroy the terror group, and rescue the remaining hostages taken by Hamas on October 7.

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on Thursday: "Hamas is in Rafah, Hamas has been holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why our forces are manoeuvering in Rafah.

"We're doing this in a targeted and precise way."

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It comes after the International Criminal Court (ICC) - a separate court - issued an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders.

Charges include extermination, using hunger as a weapon and deliberately attacking civilians, all of which Israel denies.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, 35,000 people have died in Gaza during the war, although these figures are disputed.

President Nawaf Salam (M) during a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the situation in Rafah.
President Nawaf Salam (M) during a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the situation in Rafah. Picture: Alamy

As well as criticism from abroad, Mr Netanyahu is facing pressure from within his own three-person war cabinet.

Benny Gantz set out a six point plan for the prime minister last week that includes returning the hostages, ending the Hamas regime, establishing a Gaza civilian administration and demilitarising the territory.

He said he would quit the government if it did not adopt the plan by June 8.

The UK's Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has also said that "the world needs to know" Israel's plan for Gaza after the war ends.

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