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ICJ Orders Israel to Cease Rafah Operation, Open Humanitarian Access Amid Genocide Claims

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel on Friday to immediately cease its operations in Rafah. Describing the situation in Rafah as “disastrous,” the ICJ also mandated that Israel submit a report within one month detailing the measures it has taken.

Additionally, Israel was instructed to open the Rafah crossing for humanitarian aid and to ensure unrestricted access for officials investigating genocide claims in Gaza.

This ruling followed a plea from South Africa, which accused Israel of “genocide” and called for an immediate halt to the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, particularly in the southern Rafah area. South Africa urged the ICJ to facilitate humanitarian aid access.

Israel requested the court dismiss South Africa’s plea, arguing that a ceasefire would allow Hamas fighters to regroup, making it difficult to recover hostages taken during their October 7 assault.

Amal Clooney assisted the International Criminal Court (ICC) in evaluating evidence of war crimes in Gaza. Meanwhile, Arab leaders are heading to Bahrain for a summit focused on Gaza.

In a highly-charged ruling in January, the ICJ had ordered Israel to take all possible measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza but stopped short of demanding a ceasefire. South Africa contends that the recent Israeli actions in Rafah have changed the ground situation, necessitating fresh emergency orders from the court.

The ICJ resolves disputes between countries, and its orders are legally binding, though it lacks the means to enforce them. For instance, the court previously ordered Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine without success. Judges could accept South Africa’s request, reject it outright, or issue a different set of orders.

This ICJ ruling coincides with a landmark request by the ICC’s lead prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for senior Israeli and Hamas leaders. Prosecutor Karim Khan alleges that Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and top Hamas officials are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the October 7 attack and the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

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