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Hamas welcomes ICJ order for Israel to halt Rafah offensive

Presiding Judge Nawaf Salam reads the ruling of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, on May 24, 2024 (Photo by AP)

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has praised the United Nations top court's ruling that ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

In a statement on Friday, Hamas said it “welcomes the decision of the International Court of Justice.”

The group, however, criticized the decision to exclude the rest of war-torn Gaza from the order.

“We had expected the International Court of Justice to issue a decision to put an end to the aggression and genocide against our people throughout the whole Gaza Strip, not just in Rafah.”

 “What is happening in Jabalia and other governorates of the Strip is no less criminal and dangerous than what is happening in Rafah,” Hamas added.

The group called on the "international community and the United Nations to put pressure on the [Israeli] occupation to comply immediately with this decision."

Hamas said the international community and all relevant UN institutions, particularly the Security Council are required “not to allow this fascist entity to continue its disregard for all international laws and conventions and to escape accountability and punishment”, adding that they had a "historical responsibility to see that the principle of international justice is respected, and to commit to supporting our people's right to freedom and self-determination and the establishment of the Palestinian State with al-Quds as its capital.”

Earlier on Friday, the International Court of Justice said Israel must "immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In early May, Israel carried out ground incursions into the refugee-packed city of Rafah in defiance of global warnings, forcing more than 800,000 people “to flee”, according to UN figures.

The ICJ, widely known as the world court, also ordered the Israeli regime to open the Rafah crossing to ensure the "unhindered" access of humanitarian aid.

The order, was adopted by the panel of 15 international judges in a 13-2 vote, opposed only by judges from Uganda and Israel itself.

The ruling came as South Africa last week asked the ICJ to order a halt to the war in Gaza, and in Rafah in particular.

Judges are seen at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, on May 24, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

‘Ground-breaking’ ruling

South Africa's international relations department also hailed the court’s ruling as “ground-breaking”.

"South Africa welcomes the ruling made by the Court today. ... This order is ground-breaking as it is the first time that explicit mention is made for Israel to halt its military action in any area of Gaza," Zane Dangor, director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said in a video clip shared by the department.

South Africa filed a genocide case against Israel in December 2023 over its war on the Gaza Strip. According to South Africa’s application, Israel's actions in Gaza were "genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group."

The ICJ’s final ruling on the broader South African case may take months if not years to rule, but the court can order urgent measures while weighing its decision.

Reacting to the ruling, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a press briefing at UN headquarters "The proof will be in the implementation."

The UN Palestinian envoy, Riyad Mansour, also stressed that "Israel has to abide by the decisions and the demands from the ICJ."

"We expect that resolutions of the ICJ to be implemented without hesitation. That's mandatory," he said, answering the questions at the UN in New York.

Since the start of the Israeli offensive on Gaza on October 7, the Tel Aviv regime has killed at least 35,800 Palestinians and injured 80,200 more.

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