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UN Court Orders Israel to Allow Food, Medical Aid into Gaza

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The UN’s top court has ordered Israel to enable the unhindered flow of aid into Gaza in order to avert a famine.

In a unanimous decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said Israel had to act “without delay to allow the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance”.

In its ruling, the ICJ said Gaza was “no longer facing only a risk of famine” but “famine is setting in” and that, according to UN observers, 31 people, including 27 children, had already died of malnutrition and dehydration.

The court also noted comments by Volker Türk, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, who said last week that the “situation of hunger, starvation and famine” was “a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods, displacement of most of the population, as well as the destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure”.

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The ICJ said Israel had to “take all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full co-operation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale… of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance”.

This follows warnings that famine could hit Gaza within weeks, with Israel calling allegations “wholly unfounded”.

Responding to the court order, the Israeli foreign ministry said it was continuing “to promote new initiatives, and to expand existing ones to allow a continuous flow of aid into Gaza by land, air and sea”, working with the UN and others.

It said that Hamas was to blame for the situation in Gaza and for starting the war.

The latest ruling by the court in The Hague comes after South Africa asked it to bolster an order issued to Israel in January to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

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South Africa said it had an obligation to act to prevent genocide as a signatory of the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention.

The country has been highly critical of Israel’s military operation in Gaza and its governing African National Congress (ANC) has a long history of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

Although orders issued by the ICJ are legally binding, the court lacks the power to enforce them. The UN Security Council is the only UN body which can introduce measures to try to ensure compliance.

The aid most needed included food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter and clothing as well as hygiene products and medical supplies, it said.

Israel has said that Hamas takes much of the aid that enters Gaza and accused the UN of failing to distribute what is left to the civilian population.

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The current conflict began after the 7 October attack, which saw Hamas-led gunmen storm across the border into Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 others hostage.

Of those taken, about 130 remain unaccounted for, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,623 people. Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that, of those killed, more than 25,000 were women and children.

Israel has vowed to press on with its mission to eliminate Hamas, despite the UN Security Council passing a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire earlier this week.

Israel’s military recently launched another raid on al-Shifa hospital – Gaza’s biggest – where thousands of displaced people are sheltering.

Tribune Online/

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