World Court tells Israel to let aid in as famine looms over Gaza

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague  (Photo supplied)

Venu Menon
Wellington April 2,2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to allow basic services and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza who face “famine and starvation.”

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, located at The Hague in the Netherlands, directed Israel last week to “take all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full co-operation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene and sanitation requirements, as well as medical supplies and medical care to Palestinians throughout Gaza…….”

The court ordered Israel to increase the “capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary.”

Follow-up ruling

The ICJ’s March 28 ruling follows up on its January 26 order on a petition filed by South Africa charging Israel with committing genocide in Gaza.

The January 26 order directed Israel to take steps aimed at limiting harm to Palestinians, to preserve evidence [substantiating the allegation of genocide], and submit a compliance report to the court within a month.

But the UN court has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the enclave’s governing Hamas noted.

Ongoing hostilities

The ICJ’s latest ruling comes amidst intense combat between the Israeli army and Hamas, as well as Islamic Jihad, fighters around Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on March 26 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increasing public pressure at home to get the hostages still held by Hamas released.

But the 76-year-old Netanyahu, slated to undergo surgery for hernia, is standing firm on his resolve to launch a ground operation in the city of Rafah, north of Gaza, where a million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter, a move that has strained ties with the US, a staunch ally of Israel.

Civilian casualty figures in the Gaza strip stand at 32,552, as per the Hamas-run health ministry, following Israel’s military offensive in the coastal enclave, triggered by Hamas’ incursion into Israel on 7 October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 Israeli deaths.

Of the 253 hostages taken by Hamas, around half have been released through negotiation.

Prima facie grounds

Though the ICJ’s final verdict in the genocide case brought against Israel by South Africa is still due, the UN’s top court held in its January 26 interim ruling that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention [on genocide].”

The 1948 Genocide Convention defines Genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Morally binding

The findings of the ICJ are non-binding. The court can mandate compliance to its ruling only via the UN Security Council, where Israel’s ally the US holds the power of veto.

But by appearing before the ICJ, Israel is endorsing the court’s proceedings.

Its rulings, therefore, are morally binding on Israel.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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