Top UN court orders Israel to open more aid crossings in Gaza

Click to play video: 'Gaza crisis: ICJ orders Israel to stop famine'
Gaza crisis: ICJ orders Israel to stop famine
WARNING: This video contains disturbing content. Viewer discretion is advised. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to ensure basic food supplies get into the Gaza Strip unimpeded and "without delay." Most of the people in northern Gaza are at risk of starving to death, according to a report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Crystal Goomansingh reports on Israel's response, and the growing signs of famine in Gaza – Mar 28, 2024

The top United Nations court on Thursday ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the conflict-ravaged enclave.

The International Court of Justice issued two new so-called provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. Israel denies it is committing genocide. It says its military campaign is self defense and aimed at Hamas, not the Palestinian people.

Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a ceasefire, citing starvation in Gaza. Israel urged the court not to issue new orders.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas: Airstrikes in Rafah raise fears of imminent ground assault'
Israel-Hamas: Airstrikes in Rafah raise fears of imminent ground assault

In its legally binding order, the court told Israel to take measures “without delay” to ensure “the unhindered provision” of basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

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It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, including by preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The court told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others were taken hostage. Israel responded with a campaign of airstrikes and a ground offensive that have left over 32,000 Palestinians dead, according to local health authorities. The fighting also displaced over 80 per cent of Gaza’s population and caused widespread damage.

The U.N. and international aid agencies say virtually the entire Gaza population is struggling to get enough food, with hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, especially in hard-hit northern Gaza.

South Africa welcomed Thursday’s decision, calling it “significant.”

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks, but also by disease and starvation, indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist,” the South African president said in a statement.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry thanked South Africa, calling the case “a vital step in the global effort to hold Israel accountable for perpetrating genocide.”

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The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

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Hezbollah launches rockets into northern Israel, as fighting escalates

In a written response earlier this month to South Africa’s request for more measures, Israel said the claims by South Africa were “wholly unfounded,” “morally repugnant” and “an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court itself.”

After initially sealing Gaza’s borders in the early days of the conflict, Israel began to permit entry of humanitarian supplies. It says it places no restrictions on the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza and accuses the United Nations of failing to properly organize the deliveries.

The U.N. and international aid groups say deliveries have been impeded by Israeli military restrictions, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order.

Israel has been working with international partners on a plan to soon begin deliveries of aid by sea.

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Israel has repeatedly feuded with the United Nations, particularly UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and main provider of aid in Gaza. Israel accuses the agency of tolerating and even cooperating with Hamas — a charge UNRWA denies.

The court said in its order that “Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine … but that famine is setting in.” It cited a report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that said at least 31 people, including 27 children, have already died of malnutrition and dehydration.

The world court said earlier orders imposed on Israel after landmark hearings in South Africa’s case “do not fully address the consequences arising from the changes in the situation” in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the army said it inspected 258 aid trucks, but only 116 were distributed within Gaza by the U.N.

COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, has also run pilot programs to inspect the humanitarian aid at Israel’s main checkpoints in the south and then use land crossings in central Gaza to try to bring aid to the devastated northern part of the Strip. The agency had no immediate comment on the ICJ ruling.

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