DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA – FEBRUARY 22: Palestinians including children are being treated at Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital after injured in Israeli attacks which killed 40 Palestinians and injured 100 others in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on February 22, 2024. Ashraf Amra / Anadolu

Palestine: ICJ order on prevention of genocide spurned by Israel

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

In the month following the International Court of Justice’s order to prevent genocide, Israel continues to intensify its genocidal campaign of deliberate destruction and killing in Gaza. The ICJ’s decision, adopted on 26 January 2024, ordered Israel to refrain from acts prohibited by the Genocide Convention and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian aid in Gaza. Israel, however, has expanded its military operations while continuing to intentionally withhold critical aid from Palestinians, further worsening a catastrophic humanitarian situation where hundreds of thousands of Gazans face imminent starvation.

The provisional measures ordered by the ICJ also highlight the international community’s obligation to prevent or stop genocide. Israel’s allies have clearly failed to stop the genocidal campaign against Palestinians. The United States has continued to supply Israel with weapons likely used in its military assault on Gaza. The United States also vetoed, for the third time, a ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council on 20 February, despite strong support from members. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all remaining civilian hostages.

“Although nearly a month has passed since the ICJ ruling, Israel has yet to respect the Court’s decision.  Its disregard is enabled by the support and funding it receives from its allies, despite mounting evidence of Israel’s grave violations of international law. The ICJ’s ruling should remind states of their obligation to prevent or stop genocide. Continued unconditional support to Israel will undermine the possibility for sustainable peace in the region, and jeopardize the legitimacy of the international legal framework,” warned Amna Guellali, Research Director at Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

On 26 January 2024, the ICJ ordered six provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa alleging that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention. The Court found that there is a plausible case of genocide and ordered Israel to refrain from acts prohibited by the Genocide Convention, prevent and punish direct and public incitement to genocide, and take “immediate and effective measures” to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. However, since 7 October and as of 20 February 2024, a total of 29,195 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 69,170 have been injured. Of these, 3,495 Palestinians were killed and 5,430 injured after the adoption of the ICJ decision, less than one month ago.

Israel’s indiscriminate attacks and over 16-year blockade on Gaza have worsened the humanitarian situation, leading to acute shortages of shelter, clean water, food, medicine, and access to health services. At least 60 percent of housing units in Gaza are damaged, including approximately 70,000 housing units destroyed. According to UNRWA, more than 1.7 million people have been displaced, the majority of whom have moved to Rafah. This in turn has overwhelmed the capacity of shelter, health, sanitation, and hygiene services in the area.

On 12 February, Israel launched a series of air and sea attacks on Rafah, an area it had previously designated as a safe zone, killing hundreds of Palestinians and targeting dozens of residential buildings. Israel is pledginga ground offensive against Rafah, which will inevitably lead to staggering carnage and will have disastrous implications on the delivery of humanitarian aid and the 2.2 million  individuals at imminent risk of famine. With nowhere to go for refuge, this operation raises serious concerns for the safety of civilians in Rafah and raises fears of their further forcible displacement; Israeli-Egyptian plans to transfer Palestinians to Sinai have recently been reported. While both parties publicly claim to oppose plans of population transfer, construction work of high-security structures to house refugees has begun in Eastern Sinai near the Gaza Strip border.

Following South Africa’s urgent request for additional measures to the ICJ, the Court noted that the attacks on Rafah “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences” and that these developments demand an “immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the Court in its Order of 26 January 2024”.

In contravention of the ICJ’s provisional measures, Israel has not only failed to refrain from acts prohibited in the Genocide Convention, but it has also failed to take “immediate and effective measures” to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. Israel has adopted an intentional policy of starvationand denial of basic necessities for survival through the blocking and attacking of humanitarian convoys.  Since the beginning of this year and as of 12 February 2024, the Israeli military has denied access for 51 percent of aid missions planned for north Gaza and 25 percent of those planned for south Gaza. Ongoing attacks and intensive border closures and restrictions in Gaza continue to affect the delivery of food aid and pose serious challenges for safe and effective operations. Moreover, the hostilities have substantially damaged critical infrastructure, which in turn has affected the distribution of aid. On 20 February 2024, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that they will be pausing deliveries of food aid to northern Gaza “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distributions”, due to the “collapse of civil order”. The WFP also noted that they have reported the rapid deterioration of these conditions at the end of January and that the last couple of days have presented “unprecedented levels of desperation” among residents.

At the end of January, at least 18 states announced that they would  suspend UNRWA funding, based on flimsy allegations of criminal acts of some of its staff. This decision threatens vital humanitarian operations across the region, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and appears to be collective punishment for the more than two million Palestinians who depend on UNRWA for their basic needs. This decision further demonstrates the failure of many states to take necessary action to prevent genocide. These states are prepared to discontinue funding for critical humanitarian assistance in Palestine while providing aid and weaponry to Israel despite the overwhelming evidence of its wholesale violations of international law against Palestinians. The obligation of the international community to prevent genocide includes supporting an immediate ceasefire and halting all support to Israel’s war efforts, including arms exports.

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