Written by 04:10 World

Israel Continues Military Offensive in Rafah After ICJ Order

The Israeli military was pressing ahead with its operation in Rafah on Saturday, according to three Israeli officials, a day after the world’s top court appeared to order Israel to “immediately” cease its military campaign in the southern Gaza city amid a growing international outcry over the offensive.

The officials did not say exactly where in the city its forces were striking and fighting. One official said the military continued to advance slowly, but cautioned that it was too early to conclude how Israel would ultimately respond to the court order because it takes time for a military ground operation to change course. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Palestinian news media reported that an Israeli strike had killed one person in central Rafah and that there was also fighting in the eastern suburbs of the city. Strikes were also reported in other parts of the territory, and the Israeli military confirmed that it also continued to operate in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.

The International Court of Justice ordered Israel on Friday to suspend its military offensive and “any other action” in Rafah that might wholly or partly destroy the Palestinian population there. Some of the court’s judges said that Israel could still conduct some military operations in Rafah under the terms of their decision.

The court has few effective means of enforcing its order, but the ruling adds to a growing list of moves against Israel that have undermined its international standing.

In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, the Israeli government had suggested that it would continue the fight in Rafah, defying a growing group of international partners that feel Israel has gone too far. It said in a written response that its military “has not and will not” take actions that would lead to the destruction of the Palestinian population in Rafah — in effect saying that the court’s decision has no bearing on Israel’s offensive.

Israel’s offensive in Rafah has so far displaced more than 800,000 people, most of whom had already been displaced from other parts of Gaza and have been met with miserable conditions in their new encampments. Israel has meanwhile continued to bombard other areas of the enclave, with fighting particularly intense in Jabaliya, where Israel believes Hamas is trying to regroup.

In a news briefing on Friday after the decision, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said that the U.N. chief “trusts” that Israel would “duly comply” with the court’s order. The spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, later added that countries have “a responsibility to enact and to abide” by the court’s decisions.

The court decision came as officials from Israel, the United States and Qatar — a mediator between Israel and Hamas — gathered in Paris to try to revive efforts to establish a cease-fire. Negotiations faltered earlier in the month, mainly because Hamas wants a permanent cease-fire whereas Israel wants to continue the war after a brief exchange of captives.

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Last modified: 27 May 2024
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