June 16, 2024

Israel strikes Rafah after top UN court orders it to halt offensive

Israeli air strikes and artillery pounded Rafah on Saturday, despite the UN’s top court ordering an immediate halt to its military offensive in the southern Gazan city.

At the same time, renewed efforts were underway in Paris aimed at securing a ceasefire in the war sparked by Palestinian militant group Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel.

In a case brought by South Africa alleging the Israeli military operation amounts to “genocide”, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and demanded the immediate release of hostages still held by Palestinian militants.

The Hague-based ICJ, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, also instructed Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Israel closed earlier this month.

Israel gave no indication it was preparing to change course in Rafah, insisting the court had got it wrong.

“Israel has not and will not carry out military operations in the Rafah area that create living conditions that could cause the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part,” National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a joint statement with Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Hamas, the Iran-backed Islamist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, welcomed the ICJ ruling on Rafah but criticised its decision to exclude the rest of the Palestinian territory from the order.

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