Israel’s Response to ICJ Order to Halt Rafah Assault? More Bombing

  • May 24, 2024

“What needs to be ordered is a permanent cease-fire and an end to the siege and occupation,” said a Palestinian forced to flee Gaza.


By Jessica Corbett

May 24, 2024


Civilians and journalists in the southern Gaza Strip reported Friday that Israel responded to an order by the International Court of Justice to halt military operations in Rafah by instead ramping up its assault on the southern city and elsewhere in the besieged enclave as the nation’s political leaders condemned the ICJ ruling.


Al Jazeera Arabic posted on social media that Israeli warplanes launched violent raids on Rafah—from which over 900,000 Palestinians have recently fled due to the ongoing assault, according to the United Nations.


“Just a few minutes after the ICJ ordered the criminal Israeli army to halt its Rafah offensive, now more and more airstrikes on houses in the middle of Rafah,” said Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha, who was able to escape to Cairo with his family. “What needs to be ordered is a permanent cease-fire and an end to the siege and occupation.”


Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor chief of communications Muhammad Shehada noted that “Israeli media is gloating that Israel’s response to the ICJ order to halt its Rafah offensive is a series of unusual ‘belt of fire’ attacks in the heart of Rafah,” explaining that the term means “indiscriminately bombing an area with a huge amount of simultaneous airstrikes.”


There were also reports of Israeli strikes in other parts of the Palestinian territory including Gaza City and the Jabalia refugee camp.


Just after the ICJ ruling, Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian American political analyst, offered what turned out to be an accurate prediction: “We already know what Israel’s response will be: We won’t listen to anyone, anyone who tries to make us stop our genocide is an antisemite, a terrorist, or both. Even having to stop killing Palestinians long enough to respond to this is the Holocaust all over again.”


While the Israeli military bombed Rafah and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with key ministers, leading political figures in the country forcefully rejected the U.N. court’s latest order—part of a broader South Africa-led genocide case against Israel, which has so far killed at least 35,857 Palestinians and wounded another 80,293, according to Gaza officials.


In a lengthy joint statement, Tzachi Hanegbi, who heads the Israeli National Security Council, and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson called the genocide charges “false, outrageous, and morally repugnant,” and insisted that Israel is complying with international law while waging a “defensive and just war to eliminate Hamas and to secure the release of our hostages.”


“Israel has not and will not conduct military actions in the Rafah area which may inflict on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” they said. “Israel will continue its efforts to enable humanitarian assistance and will act, in full compliance with the law, to reduce as much as possible harm caused to the civilian population in Gaza.”


While the statement added that “Israel will continue to enable the Rafah crossing to remain open for the entry of humanitarian assistance from the Egyptian side of the border, and will prevent terror groups from controlling the passage,” Al Jazeera cited U.N. data showing that since Israel took control of that site earlier this month, no trucks have entered there.


Al Jazeeraalso reported that Benny Gantz, the Israel Defense Forces’ former chief of the general staff and part of the War Cabinet with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, similarly claimed after the order Friday that that his country “set out on a just and necessary campaign” after October 7 attack.


“The state of Israel is committed to continue fighting to return its hostages and promise the security of its citizens—wherever and whenever necessary—including in Rafah,” Gantz added. “We will continue operating in accordance with international law wherever we might operate while safeguarding to the best extent possible the civilian population—not because of the ICJ but because of who we are and the values we stand for.”


According to The Jerusalem Post, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that “the irrelevant order of the antisemitic court in The Hague should have only one answer: the occupation of Rafah, the increase of military pressure, and the complete destruction of Hamas—until the complete victory in the war is achieved.”


Quoting the late David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, Ben-Gvir also wrote on social media, “Our future does not depend on what the gentiles will say, but on what the Jews will do.”


The Times of Israel highlighted remarks from some other right-wing officials:


Had this “antisemitic court” been active during the Holocaust, “it would undoubtedly have issued orders against the Allies,” declares Negev, Galilee, and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf, who is in Ben-Gvir’s party.

“Those who demand that the state of Israel stop the war, demand that it decree the cessation of its existence—we will not agree to that,” argues Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. “We will continue to fight for ourselves and for the entire free world. History will judge who today stood by the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS.”


Meanwhile, the Jerusalem-based human rights group B’Tselem on Friday noted that ICJ order follows the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor seeking warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant, asserted that “violence and disregard for human life are keystones of the Israeli apartheid regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” and called for Israel to “immediately halt its military activity” in Gaza.


“With Israeli government displaying blatant disregard for human life—of Palestinians and of the Israeli hostages—we, the citizens of Israel, must open our eyes. We must listen to the clear call from around the world: The violence, destruction and killing must stop now,” the group said. “If it continues to ignore the catastrophic reality on the ground and shirk its duty to protect human life, Israel will inevitably incur harsher international intervention.”


Around the world, critics of the bloodshed pointed to the ICJ order as the latest proof that supporters of Israel—including and especially U.S. President Joe Biden—should immediately cut off weapons and apply diplomatic pressure to end the war, possibly through the U.N. Security Council, where the United States has veto power.


“The Israeli government is already thumbing its nose at the International Court of Justice with airstrikes on Rafah,” former Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth said as the bombing continued Friday. “Is there anything that Netanyahu could do that might finally get Biden to take action—stopping arms or allowing Security Council action?”



Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.


This article is republished from Common Dreams under a Creative Commons license.


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