Mar 28, 2024 - World

International court orders Israel to do more to prevent famine in Gaza

Palestinian crowd on ground

Palestinians try to gather humanitarian aid airdropped over Jabalia in northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Mahmoud Issa/picture alliance via Getty

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order on Thursday calling on Israel to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, which the UN has warned is on the verge of famine.

Why it matters: The court's ruling is part of a growing international pressure campaign to push Israel to do more to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. It came as part of a case, brought by South Africa, accusing Israel of state-sanctioned genocide in Gaza.

The ICJ rejected South Africa's request to issue an order for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but determined that "the catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further" since its last order in late January.

  • As such it ordered Israel, in conformity with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, "to take all necessary and effective measures" to cooperate with the UN in facilitating "urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance."
  • "Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, as noted in the Order of 26 January 2024, but that famine is setting in," the court wrote.
  • The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says 32,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began in October.
  • A government spokesperson denied that Israel was limiting aid to Gaza and said Israel would "continue to promote new initiatives" to expand assistance. The spokesperson also condemned South Africa's "cynical attempts to exploit the ICJ" in opposition to Israel's war effort.

Catch up quick: South Africa in late December filed a case at the ICJ accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

  • The court held two days of hearings in January on South Africa's request for the court to issue urgent provisional measures while the case makes its way through the court, which is expected to take years.
  • At that time, the court ordered Israel to take urgent action to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering the Israeli military to halt its offensive in the enclave completely.
  • It also ordered Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza and take effective measures to prevent and punish incitement to genocide.

Driving the news: On March 6, South Africa appealed again to the court and asked for new orders for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid due to the worsening situation in Gaza.

  • In addition to facilitating humanitarian aid, the court also ordered Israel to "ensure that its military does not commit acts which constitute a violation of any of the rights of the Palestinians in Gaza as a protected group under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

What's next: The court ordered Israel to submit a report on all measures taken within one month.

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