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War in the Middle East: Israel continues military operation in Rafah

War in the Middle East: Israel continues military operation in Rafah

Israel is not directly responding to the International Court of Justice’s decision – Israeli soldiers remain active. Tel Aviv is pointing out its right to self-defense. The news at a glance.

Tel Aviv/The Hague – Despite the call by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to immediately end the military operation in Rafah, Israel’s armed forces have remained active in the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers killed several Palestinian gunmen who had previously fired at the Israelis, the army said. In addition, further weapons caches and tunnel shafts were found in Rafah. A civilian was killed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported, citing hospital staff. All information could not be independently verified at this time.

With its decision, the ICJ obliged Israel to immediately end the military operation in Rafah. With this decision, the highest court of the United Nations in The Hague complied with several demands that South Africa had made in an urgent application. Decisions of the World Court are binding. However, the UN judges have no power to force a state to implement them.

Israel has invoked its right to self-defense. In a joint statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the National Security Office, it was said that Israel had started a “just defensive war” after the terrorist attack on October 7 to eliminate the Islamist Hamas and free the hostages.

Israel also rejected the genocide accusations made by South Africa before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as “false, outrageous and abhorrent”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres made it clear that he expects a halt to the Israeli military operation in Rafah.

Israel rejects allegations

The statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the National Security Bureau went on to say that Israel had not carried out military operations in Rafah that created living conditions “that could lead to the total or partial destruction of the Palestinian civilian population.” Israel would continue its efforts to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and would act in accordance with the law to minimize harm to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The statement did not elaborate on the ICJ’s orders.

UN court judges describe situation in Rafah as disastrous

According to the judges, the humanitarian situation in Rafah has become disastrous. Further measures are necessary to prevent further harm to the civilian population. The court now demanded that Israel “in accordance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and in view of the deteriorating living conditions of the civilian population in the Rafah Governorate, immediately cease its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate that could impose living conditions on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that could bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.”

It is unlikely that Israel will implement the call to end the Rafah operation. Government spokesman Avi Hyman said of such a demand: “No power in the world will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and taking action against Hamas in Gaza. We will destroy Hamas, we will restore peace and security for the people of Israel and the people of Gaza. We cannot tolerate a regime on our southern border that seeks genocide.”

Before the Israeli army began its invasion, more than a million internally displaced people from other parts of the Gaza Strip sought protection in Rafah. South Africa’s urgent application argues that it is about preventing genocide against Palestinians. Israel’s advance into Rafah began on May 6 in the east of the city bordering Egypt. Israel describes its controversial military action there as cautious and limited. According to information from the “Times of Israel”, 300,000 to 400,000 civilians are still in Rafah.

USA: “We have made our position on Rafah clear and unambiguous”

The US State Department responded to the ICJ decision with just one sentence: “We have clearly and unambiguously explained our position on Rafah,” said a ministry spokesman when asked by the German Press Agency. The USA, as Israel’s most important ally, recently stated that the operations in Rafah had not yet reached the extent that the US government had warned about.

The US opposes a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah. Previous Israeli operations “have been more targeted and limited and have not included major military operations in the center of densely populated urban areas,” said US President Joe Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan.

The war was triggered by an unprecedented massacre by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups on October 7 last year in the Israeli border region. More than 1,200 people were killed in the terrorist attack and more than 250 were taken hostage to the Gaza Strip. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, more than 35,800 people have been killed so far in the course of Israel’s subsequent military offensive in Gaza.

Indirect Gaza negotiations could continue

Israel, Qatar and the United States have agreed to continue stalled indirect negotiations on a hostage release and ceasefire in the Gaza Strip next week, the result of talks held in Paris by CIA Director William Burns, Mossad chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, according to well-connected Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, citing an Israeli government official on X.

The indirect negotiations, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the USA, reached a dead end in April. The main issue is that the radical Islamic Hamas should release the Israeli hostages it has taken to the Gaza Strip. In return, Israel should release a large number of Palestinian prisoners from its prisons. The Jewish state should also end its military operations in the Gaza Strip – whether this is temporary or permanent is one of the points of contention in the difficult negotiations.

Last Thursday, the Israeli War Cabinet expanded the scope of the Israeli negotiating team. This apparently made it possible for the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas to continue.

Gaza aid landing stage damaged

High waves and stormy seas have damaged the temporary pier for humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip, which was completed just over a week ago. Due to the sea conditions, four US military ships participating in the mission became detached from their moorings, said the US regional command responsible for the Middle East (Centcom). Two of the ships are now anchored on the beach near the temporary pier in front of the Gaza Strip. The other two are stranded off the Israeli coast near Ashkelon. The city is around 15 kilometers from Gaza.

The Israeli military is helping to salvage all four ships, the statement said. US soldiers will not enter the Gaza Strip. There are no injuries and the pier is still operational. Centcom announced that it will continue to provide information on the process.

Eyewitnesses had previously reported that the temporary port for aid transport was currently not in operation. Workers were busy repairing the damage. The website of the Israeli television station N12 had reported that parts of the pier had been swept to the coast near Ashdod by the strong current. The Israeli city is a good 30 kilometers from Gaza.

The temporary facility was completed just over a week ago. Freighters initially bring aid supplies from Cyprus to a floating platform a few kilometers off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Border crossing will be reopened

Egypt, meanwhile, agreed to open the important Kerem Shalom border crossing in the south of the Gaza Strip for deliveries of humanitarian aid and fuel. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi agreed to this in a conversation with his US counterpart Joe Biden, according to the Egyptian side. The White House said Biden welcomed the commitment to “provisionally” allow the delivery of humanitarian aid provided by the United Nations through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. “This will help save lives,” said the statement from the US government headquarters. The US had repeatedly called for the border crossing to be opened.

The border crossing to Egypt in Rafah was recently closed after the Israeli army took over the Palestinian side. The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip is located near the city of Rafah and the Egyptian border.

US government again calls for more humanitarian aid in Gaza

Following the ICJ decision, the US again called on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid throughout the Gaza Strip. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed this issue with Benny Gantz, minister in Israel’s war cabinet, in a telephone conversation, ministry spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Blinken stressed the “urgent need” to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in the Gaza Strip and to de-escalate the situation in the West Bank. The phone call also addressed efforts to achieve a ceasefire and to prevent the conflict in the region from escalating, the statement said.

Source: Stern

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