Israel Faces Increased Pressure Following ICJ Order to Cease Rafah Offensive

The question arises whether Israel is actually undermining international law and current international order, refusing the orders of the highest court of the United Nations and making incredibly offensive and ugly comments against the UN court and judges

by Sededin Dedovic
Israel Faces Increased Pressure Following ICJ Order to Cease Rafah Offensive
© Amir Levy / Getty Images

The United Nations' highest court today ordered Israel to immediately halt its military attack in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated in its ruling that it was "not convinced" that Israel's evacuation of Rafah and other measures were sufficient to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, according to agency reports.

Reading the decision on the new provisional measures established by the ICJ, court president Nawaf Salam said that the temporary measures ordered by the court in March had not fully addressed the situation in Gaza, necessitating a new urgent measure.

"Israel must immediately cease its military offensive and any other actions in Rafah that could create living conditions for the Palestinian group in Gaza leading to its physical destruction, in whole or in part," declared Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the International Court of Justice.

The court stated that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continued to deteriorate. In Rafah, the situation is now "catastrophic."

People inspect damage and remove items from their homes following Israeli airstrikes© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

The court supported South Africa's request for Israel to stop the offensive in Rafah, a week after Pretoria made the demand in a case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Although Israel is expected not to comply, the order will increase pressure on the increasingly isolated state, notes the Associated Press. Criticism of Israel's conduct in the war is growing, even from its closest ally, the United States, which has warned against an invasion of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have taken refuge from conflicts in other parts of Gaza.

This week alone, three European countries announced they would recognize the Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of another UN court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and Hamas officials. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under pressure at home to end the war triggered by a Palestinian extremist attack from Gaza on southern Israel, which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and resulted in over 250 hostages being taken.

In response, more than 35,800 Palestinians have died in Gaza during the Israeli military campaign.

A memorial site for Hanan Yablonka at the Nova Festival site is seen after the IDF recovered the bodies of three hostages, Hanan© Amir Levy / Getty Images

Thousands of Israelis are demonstrating, calling on the government to reach an agreement to release the hostages.

Despite today's order from the International Court of Justice to immediately end military operations in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Israeli Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the War Cabinet, announced that Israel must "continue the fight." Gantz spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken from the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv and then stated that Israel would continue to "act in accordance with international law" in Rafah, as reported by Israeli media.

"The State of Israel is conducting a just and necessary campaign after the brutal terrorist organization massacred our citizens, raped our women, kidnapped our children, and fired rockets at the center of our cities," Gantz announced.

He insisted that the Jewish state "must continue the fight to retrieve its citizens" held hostage by Hamas and to ensure the safety of all citizens everywhere, including Rafah. "We will continue to act in accordance with international law in Rafah and wherever we operate and will make efforts to avoid harming civilians, not because of the Hague court, but primarily because of who we are," stated Gantz, a former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the International Court of Justice's order because it did not connect the demand to end the military action with the demand for the return of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Lapid, a sharp critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the UN court's failure to link these two issues was "a moral collapse and a moral disaster." Richard Gowan, of the International Crisis Group, told Voice of America that the ICJ's ruling could allow the US to exert greater pressure on Israel and that Israel "might try to regain some goodwill by allowing more aid into Gaza." But "I think the Israelis have made it very clear throughout the year that they will ignore all ICJ calls for restraint," he added.

South Africa's Department of International Relations welcomed Friday's ruling. "South Africa welcomes the court's decision made today," said Zane Dangor, Director General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

"This is effectively a call for a ceasefire. It orders the main party in this conflict to end its belligerent action against the people of Palestine." The high representative of the European Union for foreign policy and security, Josep Borrell, also reacted to the verdict.

"What will be the response [of the EU] to the judgment of the International Court of Justice that was handed down today? What will be our position? We will have to choose between our support for international institutions of the rule of law or our support for Israel." Just this week, three European countries announced that they would recognize a Palestinian state - Ireland, Spain and Norway.