International Court of Justice orders Israel to halt military offensive in Rafah

Judges preside over the opening of the hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands (Patrick Post/AP)
Judges preside over the opening of the hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands (Patrick Post/AP)

The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to halt its military offensive into Rafah in the Gaza strip.

Following a case brought by South Africa accusing the country of genocide, the court issued provisional measures in January which stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

Since then the fighting has continued, with over a million people fleeing south to the Rafah area.

Israel has commenced a ground invasion of that area, despite warnings about the humanitarian impact of doing so, with both the UK and US stating that they did not support the offensive.


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South Africa sought additional measures from the court given the development in the situation, with a verdict delivered on Friday.

The ICJ did not, as South Africa had requested, call for a full ceasefire throughout the Gaza strip, which was part of the original case brought before it.

However, the court has ruled that Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, pointing to the "immediate risk" to the Palestinian people, and given the country a month to respond.

Judge Nawaf Salam said the current situation risked irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

As well as instructing Israel to halt its military operation, the ICJ ordered that the Rafah border crossing be opened to allow the entry of humanitarian aid at scale.

Israel has also been ordered to ensure access to Gaza for investigators.

The ruling is unlikely to be complied with, however. While rulings are binding under international law, the ICJ does not have any way to actually enforce them.

Judge Salam also addressed the Israeli hostages who are still being held by Hamas after being abducted during the October 7 attacks which saw 1,143 people killed, including 767 civilians of whom 36 were children.

He said: "The court expresses grave concern over the fate of the hostages and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

"We find it deeply troubling that many still remain in captivity."

Earlier on Friday, the Israeli army said the bodies of three more hostages killed on October 7 have been recovered overnight from Gaza.

Military officials said the bodies of Hanan Yablonka, Michel Nisenbaum, and Orion Hernandez have been identified and their families have been informed.

The army said they were killed on the day of the attack at the Mefalsim intersection and their bodies were taken to Gaza.

Earlier this week it was announced that the International Criminal Court was seeking arrest warrants for Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as three leaders of Hamas.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked on a campaign stop in Glasgow whether a country led by him would enforce any such warrant.

He said: "We have supported the independence of the court. I believe in the rule of law.

“There's no equivalence, we’ll never accept equivalence between Hamas and Israel, which has its right to self-defence.

“But I believe in the international rule of law and I respect the independence of both the prosecutor and the court, but they've got a decision to make at some point in the future.”