Israel ordered to urgently secure aid for Gaza

Henry

The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to make sure that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches people in the Gaza Strip. Fighting continues around hospitals on Friday despite a binding request for a ceasefire by the United Nations.

The IG in The Hague said in his order that Palestinians in Gaza no longer only experience a risk of starvation, but starvation is already present.

At least 31 people, including 27 children, have already died from malnutrition or dehydration.

In January, the court determined that Israel must ensure “urgently necessary” humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory and prevent acts of genocide. Israel rejected the case, which was brought by South Africa.

The latest ruling from the court, which does not have many enforcement tools, comes after Israel’s army said on Friday it was continuing operations at Al-Shifa hospital, the area’s largest, for a twelfth day.

Throughout the coastal area, dozens of people died overnight, the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said early Friday. Of these deaths, 12 people died in a house in the southern city of Rafah.

Men worked with cellphone lights in the dark and dug with their hands to free people trapped under concrete blocks after an airstrike, AFPTV images show.

The IG ordered Israel to “take all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without any delay, that urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance are provided”. This includes food, water and medical supplies.

‘Immediate ceasefire’

The war began on October 7 when Hamas’s attack resulted in some 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians. This is according to an AFP tally based on Israel’s official figures.

Israel’s reactionary campaign to destroy Hamas has already claimed the lives of at least 32,623 people, mainly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Large parts of the territory were laid in ruins. Most of Gaza’s population is now sheltering in the southern tip, Rafah.

On Monday, the UN Security Council demanded an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, that hostages held by militants be released and that humanitarian access be ensured.

Member states are obliged to comply with these resolutions, but the fight continues and the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Friday that nothing has yet changed on the ground level.

Aid groups say only a fraction of the supplies needed to meet basic humanitarian needs have been allowed in since October, when Israel placed Gaza under an almost total siege.

Israel blames the shortages on the Palestinian side, namely a lack of capacity to distribute assistance as soon as it arrives.

Philanthropists argue that trucks are the most efficient way to deliver aid, but the number of vehicles allowed is still not sufficient.

With limited access on the ground, several countries began to deliver aid from the air, and a sea corridor from Cyprus delivered its first cargo of food.

People rushing for the food drowned or died in a stampede until air parcels fell into the sea this week – a sign of the dangers and desperation.

Health system collapses

The UN says Gaza’s health care system is collapsing “due to continued hostilities and limited access”.

The Israeli army accuses Hamas and another militant group, the Islamic Jihad, of hiding inside hospitals and using patients, staff and displaced persons for cover. The militants deny these charges.

The army said on Friday that it was “continuing with precision activity in Shifa hospital” where an incursion took place early last week.

Soldiers raided Al-Shifa in November, before Israel announced in January that it had “completely dissolved” Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza.

Palestinian militants and commanders have since returned to Al-Shifa, the army said as it launched its latest incursion. About 200 militants have been killed during the current operation.

Death toll

Since the Gaza war began, Israel has increased its attacks in Syria. Army positions and Iran-backed forces, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, a partner of Damascus and Hamas, are targeted.

A British-based war monitor said Israeli airstrikes in northern Syria on Friday killed at least 42 people, including six from Hezbollah and 36 Syrian soldiers.

Israel’s army said Ali Abdel Hassan Naim, deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket unit, was killed in an airstrike on a car in southern Lebanon on Friday.

Mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar tried to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, but these talks stalled more than halfway through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tensions have risen between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington, which provides billions of dollars in military aid but has increasingly made statements about the war’s impact on civilians.

The US also raised the issue of Gaza’s postwar rule. A future role for the Palestinian Authority, which has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been suggested.

Mahmud Abbas, President of Palestine, approved the new government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa on Thursday. His cabinet will work on “visions to reunite the institutions, including accepting responsibility for Gaza”.

In 2007, Hamas took over Abbas’s government in the Gaza Strip by force.

Netanyahu says Israel must have “security responsibility in Gaza” and has rejected US requests for a Palestinian state. His ruling coalition, which includes ultra-Orthodox members, is at risk over a defense ministry reform that could lead to ultra-Orthodox Jews being called up for military service. Netanyahu asked the supreme court for an adjournment to further discuss this measure.

He is also under pressure for his failure to bring home all persons taken hostage by militants on October 7. Israel says about 130 hostages are still in Gaza, including 34 who are believed to have died.