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ICJ orders Israel to ensure ‘unhindered provision’ of Gaza aid flows, warns famine is ‘setting in’

ICJ orders Israel to ensure ‘unhindered provision’ of Gaza aid flows, warns famine is ‘setting in’
Internally displaced Palestinian children queue up with their pots and containers waiting to receive food provided by Arab and Palestinian donors in Deir Al Balah town, southern Gaza Strip, 24 February 2024. Since 07 October, up to 1.9 million people, or more than 85 percent of the population, have been displaced throughout the Gaza Strip, some more than once, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which added that most civilians in Gaza are in 'desperate need of humanitarian assistance'. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

The International Court of Justice, in response to South Africa’s request for additional provisional measures, has issued fresh orders calling on Israel to let humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to desist from obstructing humanitarian aid to Gaza as famine sets in, ordering it to increase the number of land crossing points for humanitarian supplies and provide its “full cooperation” to the United Nations. 

In response to South Africa’s application for additional provisional measures on 6 March 2024, the ICJ on Thursday, 28 March, found that the situation in the Gaza Strip had deteriorated significantly since the court’s initial order of 26 January. 

“The Court recalls that, in its Order of 26 January 2024, it concluded that the civilian population in Gaza was extremely vulnerable, noting that many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had ‘no access to the most basic foodstuffs, potable water, electricity, essential medicines or heating’.

“The Court observes with regret that, since then, the catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further, in particular in view of the prolonged and widespread deprivation of food and other basic necessities to which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected,” the ICJ said on Thursday.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis

The court said that Palestinians in Gaza were “no longer facing only a risk of famine”, as it noted in its initial order of 26 January, “but that famine is setting in”.

The “exceptionally grave” developments in Gaza, the court said, constituted a change in the situation within the meaning of Article 76 of the Rules of the Court – necessitating further provisional measures. 

In its fresh ruling, 16 ICJ judges unanimously ordered Israel to “take all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene and sanitation requirements, as well as medical supplies and medical care to Palestinians throughout Gaza”.

This included Israel “increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points, and maintaining them open for as long as necessary”.

Additionally, the ICJ – by 15 votes to one – ordered Israel to: “Ensure with immediate effect 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 Genocide Conventions, including by preventing the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid.

Israel is required to file a report to the court on the measures taken to adhere to this order by 28 April.

South Africa’s 6 March request for provisional measures noted the urgent need to prevent the threat of “full-scale” famine in Gaza, pleading with the court to act, before it was too late, “to do what is within its power to save Palestinians in Gaza from genocidal starvation”. Israel opposed South Africa’s application, accusing it of being a “misrepresentation of reality”.

Pretoria welcomed the fresh orders on Thursday, saying the impact of the order “is significant”.

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks, but also by disease and starvation, indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist. The most effective way to uphold this right is through prevention. The Court’s actions include specific responsibilities to prevent genocide,” read a statement from the Presidency. 

Israel’s order comes as international aid organisations continue to sound the alarm about starvation in Gaza. Among the evidence the court noted in its order was a report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which found that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and is projected to occur any time between mid-March and May 2024.

Calls for ceasefire

On 26 January, South Africa persuaded the ICJ that there was a plausible case of genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza.

The court ordered Israel to prevent genocide, to prevent and punish incitement to genocide, and to increase humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza. But it stopped short of ordering Israel to implement a ceasefire in Gaza, which was the maximum provisional measure South Africa had called for.

It also called on Hamas to release the remaining hostages captured in its attack on Israel on 7 October.

Read more in Daily Maverick: How South Africa seeks an order to stop the carnage in Gaza and prevent a genocide

According to Dr Atilla Kisla, the international justice cluster lead for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the court’s fresh provision with respect to humanitarian aid is much more detailed than that contained in its initial order of 26 January. 

“On the aspect of whether this order will help SA’s case on the merits. This order again is aimed to protect the rights of the Palestinians as a protected group under the Genocide Convention. Whether and to what extent these developments will have an impact on the merits of the case will be seen once we get to that stage. But the order from yesterday certainly provides a factual update that the situation is getting worse and famine is setting in.

“We are still at the stage of provisional measures and the court’s order from yesterday, same like the one from 26 Jan, is not concerned with the question whether Israel is guilty of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention,” said Kisla. 

Accompanying the ICJ order on Thursday, several judges made striking declarations on the war in separate opinions. Four of the 16 ICJ judges – including South Africa’s Judge Dire Tladi – issued a joint declaration conveying their disappointment that the court had not explicitly ordered a ceasefire. 

“In our view, the present scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the overwhelming consensus that, without the suspension of military operations, this catastrophe will even worsen, constitute circumstances that require the Court to explicitly order a suspension of military operations.

“We agree with the factual finding of the Court. In our opinion, however, the Court’s factual finding should have led it to decide that Israel must suspend its military operations in a way so as to give full effect to its obligations under this Order. Much to our regret, the measure indicated in subparagraph (2) (b) does not extend far enough to make that point explicitly,” they said.

Additionally, in a separate declaration Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf from Somali warned of indicators of genocide. “The alarm has now been sounded by the Court. All the indicators of genocidal activities are flashing red in Gaza.”

The ICJ also noted the UN Security Council resolution, which passed on Monday, 25 March, calling for “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    The ICJ also ordered the release of hostages! Why is this not mentioned and conveniently ignored?

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Hopefully people will realize that this is not a Hamas, pro Israel or Palestinian issue.
    A bomb kills immediately and depending who you talk to it can be explained as collateral damage, medicine is blocked and survivors explained as collateral injuries are refused treatment it changes to intent, seeing that out of all the odds people survive food is then blocked knowing that if you survive the bomb,heal without medicine you cannot survive without food.
    Genocide is not a debate in the Palestine issue it is the reality.
    The sad coincidence is that pro Israel supporters who deny everything also believe they understand effects of Israel’s war influence on the Ukraine war.
    Everytime Israel commits war crimes and ignore court rulings Putin increases his attack on civilian infrastructure, Israel blocks food Odessa gets bombed and the world gets tonnes of grains shorter.
    Israel is setting the tone on how wars should be fought.
    No one is immune from having a conflict one day, all the things we condone today will come back to bite us.
    All wars end with a dialogue that is why leaders are always spared.
    Ukraine survived Stalin once but they are at war again with Russia, a permanent solution is needed and it starts with holding states accountable for their actions, if the people viewed as terrorists force states to commit genocide and war crimes then they should be given the platform to lead because current leaders and society have lost the moral compass.

    • ST ST says:

      Thank you Kenneth. You’re making valid points. Your passion and understanding of the issues is evident

    • theresa burdett says:

      Oct 7 was the breaking point. Israel has every right to remove terrorists and terrorist supporters. Hamas is the devils spawn. They are a designated terrorist organization yet they have offices in Cape Town. Why has govt allowed terrorists to make a nest in SA? I am of the opinion that the ANC received money from either Hamas or Iran to start this court case. What right have they to spend 215m of our hardworking taxpayers money without holding a referendum first?

    • Dietmar Horn says:

      Anyone who compares different conflicts should not make things too easy for themselves, but rather try to analyze them in a differentiated manner. Putin was already a villain before the Israel/Palestine conflict escalated since last October; he doesn’t need Netanyahu as his teacher. What both people have in common is that their thoughts and actions are determined by revenge and retaliation and they significantly lack empathy for the lives and suffering of innocent people. But there are also differences. Putin’s obsession stems from the trauma of Russia’s past greatness. Wounded national pride, paranoid and irrational because neither Ukraine nor the EU and NATO pose any real danger to the Russian people. Russia has all the resources to exist economically and culturally in peaceful coexistence with the rest of Europe. Israel’s trauma, on the other hand, is characterized by very real existential dangers, the progroms of the past that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust and the ongoing Islamist-jihadist motivated desire for destruction. However, psychological trauma is not a justification for victims becoming perpetrators; in the case of Israel/Palestine, this applies to both sides. Peace is only possible there if both sides are capable of forgiving each other’s guilt. In the case of Russia/Ukraine, Putin can end the war unilaterally by withdrawing his troops from Ukraine and ceasing hostilities. This would not endanger the existence of the Russian people.

      • Dietmar Horn says:

        “Thousands once again protested against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in several Israeli cities. They called for new elections and a hostage agreement with Hamas. Apparently there were riots in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.“
        A message that I can’t find in DM yet. Clearly there is a strong basis for democracy, human rights and critical self-reflection in Israel. Only when the peoples of the Islamic world are ready and put appropriate pressure on their governments will the possibility of a negotiated peace illuminate the Middle East.

      • Dietmar Horn says:

        “Thousands once again protested against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in several Israeli cities. They called for new elections and a hostage agreement with Hamas. Apparently there were riots in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.“
        A message that I can’t find in DM yet. Clearly there is a strong basis for democracy, human rights and critical self-reflection in Israel. Only when the peoples of the Islamic world are ready and put appropriate pressure on their governments will the possibility of a negotiated peace illuminate the Middle East.

    • Dietmar Horn says:

      Dear Kenneth, just to check if I understand your last sentence the way you mean it, my guess in parentheses:
      “if the people viewed as terrorists (Hamas?) force states (Israel?) to commit genocide and war crimes then they (Hamas?) should be given the platform to lead because current leaders and society (of the west?) have lost the moral compass.”

    • Steve Du Plessis says:

      No risk that watching Al Jazeera will make you smarter

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Israel will ignore the ICJ
    Food supplies will continue to be blocked. Medical supplies will continue to be blocked. Famine will set in. Oppression will continue. The illegal occupation will continue and illegal settlements will continue to be built.
    Why? Precedent and consistency. The Israeli government has never acknowledged accountability and when the chips fall down, the USA will shield Israel – same as it always was.

  • Steve Du Plessis says:

    Time to destroy Hamas properly and release the hostages so that the war can end. Hopefully the Gaza’s have learned that it’s better to spend their time and money building a tolerant decent society led by real leaders rather than Islamic fundamentalist facists. Let’s hope they build another Dubai in Gaza rather than tunnels rockets and another Afghanistan

    • John P says:

      Time for a negotiated future decided by all the parties involved.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Steve on Al Jazeera they are showing a documentary on settlers who took over Palestinians farms with unfinished buildings in it, the beat the families to pulp and told the families they will complete the buildings to build schools for settler children.
      Your vision for the end to the genocide war of choice by Israel is a pipe dream because Israel will not achieve it’s goals as long as there is a living Palestinian soul alive.
      I think you know about this that is why when the topic is about Palestinians you point the solution to come from Hamas, Hamas took money in suitcases from Israel via Jordan to eject the PA, do you truly believe they care about anyone?
      Let’s talk Palestine and Israel and honest solutions, let’s call genocide as it unfolds, let’s understand the thinking of Afrikaners when they imagine that expropriation of land without compensation can potentially create a genocide because that is exactly what is happening against the Palestinians.
      One question for you, as much as there were a number of Jews in Palestine why did Europe decide to find a state for them instead of coexisting with them?
      If the current Israel government migrated to Europe which country will gladly embrace them?
      Isn’t the support made available to make sure they stay as far away from Europe as possible?

      • L T. says:

        Wow. This is what happens to a brain when it relies on Al Jazeera for truthful, verifiable reporting. It is the Palestinians, poor, benighted and now starving people who have nowhere to go because no one wants them or has ever wanted them. Not even Jordan where Rania , the half Palestinian Queen of Liars reigns. They are homeless and starving because of Hamas. Your last remark is blatantly antisemitic and not at all clever. Israel , home to the Jews who lived their for thousands of years, home to those who survived the Holocaust in Europe and home to the Jews who were expelled from Arab lands , will survive.

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          Fortunately it was just the documentary on Al Jazeera my research never discounts any media house moreso if it has the guts to be inside the conflict, Israel targets those reporters for a reason, BBC and CNN also verify the same research, lately the Jerusalem post shares the same sentiments.

        • John P says:

          Which media do you follow?

    • Troy Marshall says:

      Steve, leaders in this country received ideology lessons prepared in Moscow. They also received arms from Moscow. Our leaders would have sat through ideology lessons prepared in Timbuktu if it meant acquiring arms. (no offence meant to citizens of Mali)
      What came first? The horse or the cart?
      My generation served military service in the 80’s. Would that service have been necessary if not for apartheid?
      Israel’s oppression and illegal occupation is the problem. Violent resistance is a natural reaction. Pacifism will not end the occupation.
      Would a real leader tell his/her people that it’s okay to be dominated by another race, that military occupation and control is normal, that’s it okay to allow their land to be incrementally stolen?

    • Troy Marshall says:

      Let me add further. It’s the USA and Israel that have the control, and hold ALL the cards. These nations can deliver peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but only by doing right by the Palestinians.
      Some middle east nations will remain hostile to Israel, but a two state solution will remove a lot of Palestinian fighters from the equation.

    • L T. says:

      You are correct Steve. And anyone who quotes from Al Jazeera is already too brainwashed to be taken seriously.

  • Skinyela Skinyela says:

    Even if the ICJ explicitly ordered a ceasefire it would not have made any difference, because Israel also ignored the security council.

    • William Stucke says:

      Please note that the ICJ didn’t order Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, because they have no jurisdiction. So, you want one party to cease fire but the other can carry on as much as they like. How well do you think that will work out?

  • Bob Dubery says:

    This is all just going through the motions, whether you agree with the ICJ or not. Israel have a history of disregarding ICJ verdicts, and do not consider themselves bound any rulings the ICJ issues. Israel want their bread buttered both sides – and get it! They want to be full members of the UN, but they don’t want to be bound to respect the verdicts handed down by the UN’s court.

    Kicking Israel out would just mean the ICJ cannot summons them and there will be no motions to condemn whatever they do. Is it better to have them in the UN camp, even though the effect is just the same?

  • Agf Agf says:

    Here we go again. A comment I made at 08h06 this morning is still awaiting moderation while two more comments made at 11h01 and 13h05 are published.

    • John P says:

      Assuming it is the below post from 12.35 or something like on the same lines that has now made it through we can see why it took so long, most people clicked on “misinformation”

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Joe Rogan (UFC commentator) has put into words what many feel, but certain news outlets will censor.
    Bernie Sanders (American Politician) has put into words what many feel, but certain news outlets will censor.
    There’s freedom of speech, but when it comes to a certain government, that freedom of speech – is less.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Choose better photo to illustrate point. What we see are rosy cheecks, beautifull hair, well conditioned skin, shiny hair and playfull children

  • Agf Agf says:

    Every single death in Gaza lies squarely at the feet of Hamas. They brought it on themselves and the people they represent. Don’t forget that they were voted into power by the people of Gaza. The same people who gave succor to them while they dug tunnels and embedded themselves into the population. They supported the massacre of October the 7th, cheering the returning heroes, spitting on the bodies of the raped women and jeering at the hostages being dragged through the streets. And when the humanitarian aid does come in, the self same Hamas steals it and ferrets it away underground. It could all end tomorrow. The citizens of Gaza could drag Hamas out of their underground lairs, deal with them as they see fit and surrender immediately. The war would be over in an instant

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      I guess when you correct your oversight of the illegal occupation and settlements you will have a different view on what will stop the war forever.

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