Top UN court rejects request to prevent Israel’s further advance into Rafah

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The United Nations’ top court has rejected a request from South Africa that asked for them to intervene in Israel’s planned operation into the populated city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip amid it’s ongoing war with Hamas.

The court acknowledged that Israel’s recent developments in the southern city, where more than 1 million refugees are sheltering, would “’exponentially increase’ what is already a humanitarian nightmare,” but did not deem the expansion necessary of “additional provisional measures.”

Instead, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), said its previous order from Jan. 26 is still applicable. The court maintained that Israel “remains bound to fully comply” with expectations under the Genocide Convention — the international treaty that criminalizes genocide — and ensuring the safety of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Last week, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to prepare for civilian evacuations in Rafah as his troops prepared to enter the densely populated city, because it believes that it’s the last stronghold in the area held by the militant group.

In a previous ruling, ICJ ordered Israel to do more to protect civilians and gave Netanyahu one month to present a plan.

The ruling did not explicitly call for a cease-fire in the war, but said it is “at the very least plausible” that Israel is committing a genocide.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, there have been more than 28,000 Palestinians killed since Israel launched its counteroffensive last year. In it’s initial attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took over 200 people captive.

Israeli forces have continued their attacks despite continued warnings from multiple international leaders and agencies. President Biden warned Netanyahu that he “should not proceed” in Rafah without a plan for the safety of the refugees.

Rafah was considered one of the last designated safe zones in Gaza, but continued strikes in the area have continued to kill Palestinians.

South Africa’s foreign minister told The Associated Press last week that they believe Israel has ignored ICJ’s rulings and calls to protect civilians.

“Hundreds of people have been killed in the last three or four days. And clearly Israel believes it has license to do as it wishes,” the foreign minister told the outlet.  

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