Top UN court orders Israel to allow more aid into Gaza

An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over northern Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, March 28, 2024.
An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over northern Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, March 28, 2024. Copyright Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called the case “a vital step in the global effort to hold Israel accountable for perpetrating genocide.”

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The top United Nations court on Thursday ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the war-ravaged enclave.

The International Court of Justice issued two new so-called provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after the 7 October attacks. 

Israel denies it is committing genocide and accused South Africa of trying to “undermine Israel's inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens.”

Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a ceasefire, citing starvation in Gaza. 

Israel, which had urged the court not to issue new orders, said it places no limits on aid entering Gaza and vowed to “promote new initiatives” to bring in even more assistance.

In its legally binding order, the court told Israel to take measures “without delay” to ensure “the unhindered provision” of basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could harm Palestinians' rights under the Genocide Convention, including by preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The court told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

Fighting since October has displaced over 80% of Gaza's population, caused widespread damage and sparked a humanitarian crisis. The UN and international aid agencies say virtually the entire Gaza population is struggling to get enough food, with hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, especially in hard-hit northern Gaza.

South Africa welcomed Thursday's decision, calling it “significant.”

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks, but also by disease and starvation, indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist,” the South African president said in a statement.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group, said the ruling must be enforced by the international community.

“It must be implemented immediately, so that this decision does not remain a dead letter,” it said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry thanked South Africa, calling the case “a vital step in the global effort to hold Israel accountable for perpetrating genocide.”

After initially sealing Gaza’s borders in the early days of the war, Israel began to permit entry of humanitarian supplies. It says it places no restrictions on the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza and accuses the United Nations of failing to properly organize the deliveries. On Tuesday, the army said it inspected 258 aid trucks, but only 116 were distributed within Gaza by the UN.

The UN and international aid groups say deliveries have been impeded by Israeli military restrictions, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused South Africa of making “cynical attempts” to exploit the world court to undermine Israel’s right to self-defence and to win the release of remaining hostages. 

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others were taken hostage. 

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Israel responded with a campaign of airstrikes and a ground offensive that have left over 32,000 Palestinians dead, according to local health authorities.

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