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Israel Strikes Rafah After UN Court Demands Ceasefire

Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, including Rafah, on Saturday, defying an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to “immediately halt” its military offensive in the southern city. The ICJ, based in The Hague, also instructed Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Israel had closed before launching its ground invasion.

Despite the ICJ ruling, Israel continued its strikes on Gaza as clashes between the Israeli army and Hamas’s armed wing persisted. Palestinian witnesses and AFP teams reported Israeli strikes in Rafah and Deir al-Balah. A Gaza City resident displaced to Deir al-Balah, Oum Mohammad al-Ashqa, expressed hope that the court’s decision would pressure Israel to end what she called a “war of extermination.”

The ICJ’s ruling emphasized that Israel must halt actions in Rafah that could lead to the destruction of the Palestinian population there. It also mandated Israel to allow UN investigators access to Gaza to examine genocide allegations. However, Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi rejected the court’s findings, asserting that Israel has not and will not create living conditions that could cause the destruction of the Palestinian population.

The conflict, which began after Hamas’s October 7 attack, has led to significant casualties. More than 1,170 people have died in Israel, mostly civilians, while the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported at least 35,800 deaths, predominantly women and children. Hostilities have continued unabated, with Israel recovering the bodies of three hostages from northern Gaza, further intensifying the situation.

The ICJ’s order also demanded the immediate release of all hostages held by Palestinian militants. While the ruling was welcomed by Hamas, they criticized it for not including the entire Gaza Strip. The ongoing violence has overshadowed separate ceasefire talks in Paris, involving US, Egyptian, and Qatari mediators, and meetings between CIA chief Bill Burns, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Arab state foreign ministers.

Efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza have been slow. Although Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed to allow UN aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and the US military set up a temporary jetty for sea deliveries, the situation remains dire. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths highlighted the risk of famine and the dire conditions faced by Gaza’s 2.4 million residents, calling for a ceasefire and the release of hostages to end the suffering.

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