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UN court demands urgent action from Israel on Gaza famine

UN court demands urgent action from Israel on Gaza famine

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) directed Israel to implement measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This includes opening additional land crossings to facilitate the entry of essentials such as food, water, fuel and medical supplies into the war-stricken area.

The decision follows a lawsuit by South Africa, which accuses Israel of committing acts of genocide through its military actions initiated after the attacks by Hamas on October 7. Israel has denied these allegations and criticised South Africa for challenging its right to protect its citizens.

The court's legally binding order demands Israel to promptly take steps to guarantee the uninterrupted provision of humanitarian aid and basic services. It also mandates that Israel's military operations do not impede Palestinians' rights under the Genocide Convention, particularly concerning the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Israel is required to report on its compliance with these orders within a month.

Saudi Arabia expressed support for the ICJ's ruling, emphasising the urgency of increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza to prevent further deterioration of the situation. The kingdom also called on the international community to act immediately to halt the Israeli occupation's breaches of international humanitarian law and to enforce the Security Council's resolution for a ceasefire.

The war has resulted in over 32,000 Palestinian deaths, with a significant portion being women, children and teenagers, according to local health authorities. Israel contends that more than a third of the fatalities are militants, although it has not provided evidence for this claim. The war has led to the displacement of over 80% of Gaza's population, extensive destruction and a severe humanitarian crisis. The UN and aid agencies report that almost the entire population is facing food shortages and many are on the brink of famine.

South Africa hailed the court's decision as a crucial step in holding Israel accountable for its actions.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group opposed to Israel, emphasized the need for immediate enforcement of the ruling by the international community. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also expressed gratitude to South Africa for its role in the global effort to hold Israel accountable.

Despite initially sealing Gaza's borders, Israel has since allowed humanitarian supplies to enter, claiming that there are no restrictions on the amount of aid permitted. However, the UN and aid organizations argue that the delivery of aid has been hindered by Israeli military restrictions, ongoing hostilities and a breakdown of public order.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused South Africa of exploiting the World Court to undermine Israel's right to self-defence and to secure the release of remaining hostages held by Hamas. Israel asserts that Hamas continues to hold around 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others.

Israel is collaborating with international partners to initiate aid deliveries by sea and has accused the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, of collaborating with Hamas, a charge UNRWA denies. The ICJ noted that the situation in Gaza has deteriorated to the point where famine is not just a risk but is already occurring, with reports of deaths due to malnutrition and dehydration. The court emphasised that previous orders on Israel did not fully address the changing situation in Gaza.

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