Israel strikes Rafah despite UN court order to halt military operations, talks around hostage deal to resume

Israeli forces continued their operation in the southern Gaza Strip, including Rafah, on Saturday, despite the International Court of Justice's request to immediately halt the military intervention in Rafah. Efforts are currently underway in Paris to seek a ceasefire in the war. 

Just a day after the International Court of Justice’s ruling that Israel had to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the country has resumed its operations again. Renewed strikes rocked Gaza (including Rafah and the central city of Deir Al Balah) while clashes between the Israeli army and Hamas militants continued. Israel’s actions provoked a lot of criticism from the international community. On Saturday, Spain demanded that the country abide by the Court's decision, which is legally binding. There are, however, no direct enforcement mechanisms. 

It was already very unlikely that Israel would comply with the ICJ’s order. The country has repeatedly rejected the case, brought before the Court by South Africa, and has called accusations of genocide baseless. After Friday’s ruling, Israel gave no indication it was preparing to change course in Rafah and insisted the court had got it wrong. The decision, however, will ratchet up the pressure on the increasingly isolated country. As recently as Wednesday, three European countries (Norway, Ireland and Spain) took a historic but mostly symbolic step by saying they would recognise a Palestinian state, a decision fiercely criticised by Israel.

At home, too, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to end the war, which was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and roughly 250 were taken hostage. Thousands of Israelis are now joining weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring the hostages home, as they fear time is running out.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official revealed on Saturday that the government planned to resume talks this week to reach an agreement on the release of hostages in Gaza, following a meeting in Paris between US and Israeli officials.


A girl walks through rubble in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

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