June 16, 2024

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Updates on the war between Israel and Hamas: Gaza receives initial aid from the American dock

Updates on the war between Israel and Hamas: Gaza receives initial aid from the American dock

Smoke rising after an air strike in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, Friday.credit…Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press

Lawyers representing Israel on Friday defended the military operation in Rafah as “limited and localized,” telling the UN Supreme Court that judges should not seek to restrict Israel’s actions in Gaza.

At a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Israel responded to a petition submitted by South Africa to the court to order an immediate halt to its ground offensive in Rafah.

Israeli forces have advanced to the outskirts of Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip, over the past week and a half, ordering mass evacuations and intensifying their bombing ahead of the long-awaited invasion of the city. More than 630,000 people have fled the area, many of them already displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, according to the United Nations.

The hearings are part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, which it filed in December. In late January, the court ordered Israel to do more to prevent acts of genocide, but it is not expected to hear the main issue of whether genocide was committed until next year.

Last week, South Africa asked judges to issue an emergency order aimed at preventing widespread harm to civilians in Rafah. South African lawyers told the court on Thursday that Israel’s Rafah operation was “the final step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people.”

The court has no means to implement its orders, but the South African case has contributed to international pressure on Israel to curb its campaign in Gaza. It is not clear when the court will issue a decision on South Africa’s request for an emergency order.

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Gilad Noam, Israel’s deputy prosecutor for international law, on Friday reiterated Israel’s strong rejection of committing genocide in Gaza. He said that the Israeli authorities are working to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid and protect civilians amid intense fighting across the Strip, including Rafah.

“Israel is taking steps to try to deal with the enormous complexity that such a situation presents,” Mr. Naoum told the judges. He added: “For this reason, there was not a large-scale attack on Rafah. Rather, there were specific, limited, and local operations preceded by evacuation efforts and support for humanitarian activities.”

Israeli leaders said the invasion of Rafah was necessary to overthrow Hamas’ rule in Gaza. There are four battalions of Hamas fighters in the city, according to the Israeli army, in addition to at least 130 hostages, living and dead, who remain held by Palestinian armed groups since the October 7 attack on Israel that led to the outbreak of war in the city. Gaza.

But the possibility of a major ground invasion of Rafah amid hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians has drawn sharp criticism internationally, including from the Biden administration. After Israel began its advance in the region, President Biden said that Washington would withhold some weapons if Israel launched a comprehensive attack on densely populated areas.

Mr. Naoum said the court ran the risk of engaging in “micromanagement of the operational aspects of the armed conflict.” He said that demanding a ceasefire would only tie Israel’s hands because Hamas – an armed group, not a state – is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

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South Africa also asked the court on Thursday to order Israel to ensure greater access to Gaza for aid workers, investigators and journalists. Mr. Noam said that the Israeli judicial system is working to crack down on alleged wartime misconduct, and that military prosecutors have opened 55 criminal investigations into possible violations by Israeli forces since the beginning of the war.

Human rights groups say the Israeli military cannot conduct credible investigations of itself, and that soldiers who kill Palestinians in contested circumstances rarely face significant penalties. B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights monitoring organization It was rejected Previous investigations by Israeli authorities into possible violations of the laws of war amount to vindication.

In filing the case, Israeli officials accused South Africa of acting as a “legal arm” of Hamas, which led the deadly October 7 attack. Hamas said last week that a delegation of its officials attended a conference in Johannesburg. Hamas posted a photo of Bassem Naim, the movement’s spokesman, speaking with Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, on social media.