THE HAGUE, May 25 – The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the ICJ, announced on Friday.

Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” the ICJ said.

The court ordered Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing into Gaza for the “unhindered” provision of humanitarian aid. It also ordered Israel to report back within one month on its progress in applying the measures ordered by the court.

ICJ rulings are legally binding but the court has no concrete means to enforce them. 

Israel had argued before the court that an order to stop military activity would give free rein to Hamas and prevent its army from rescuing hostages taken in the group’s October 7 attack.

The ICJ ruling comes hot on the heels of another decision on Monday by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders.

Prosecutor Karim Khan alleged that senior Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plus top Hamas officials, were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the war in Gaza and the October 7 attack.

South Africa brought the case before the ICJ last year, alleging that Israel’s Gaza offensive breached the 1948 UN Genocide Convention – a charge strongly denied by Israel.

In a ruling on January 26 that made headlines worldwide, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.

But South Africa has since returned several times to the ICJ arguing that the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza compels the court to issue further fresh emergency measures.

The court did so in March, ordering new measures compelling Israel to ensure the “unhindered provision at scale” of humanitarian aid.

In public hearings last week, South Africa’s ambassador Vusimuzi Madonsela alleged that “Israel’s genocide has continued apace and has just reached a new and horrific stage.”

“Although the present application was triggered by the unfolding situation in Rafah, Israel’s genocidal onslaught across Gaza has intensified over the past few days, also warranting the attention of this court,” he said.

South Africa argued the only way to enable humanitarian aid in to ease the crisis in Gaza was a full halt to Israel’s military operations.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here