Top UN court orders Israel to halt military operation in Rafah; Israel is unlikely to comply

While the International Court of Justice has broad powers to order an end to the Israeli military campaign, it does not have a police force to enforce its orders.
World Court Gaza
Posted at 8:24 AM, May 24, 2024

The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to halt its military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Israel insists it has the right to defend itself from Hamas militants and is unlikely to comply with the ruling.

The order by the International Court of Justice further ratchets up international pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel to rein in its war on Hamas in Gaza.

Friday’s decision marked the third time this year the 15-judge panel has issued preliminary orders seeking to rein in the death toll and alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza. While orders are legally binding, the court has no police to enforce them.

Israeli tanks move near the Israeli-Gaza border.

Israel at War

Israel pushes deeper into Rafah and battles a regrouping Hamas in northern Gaza

AP via Scripps News
1:34 PM, May 12, 2024

Criticism of Israel's conduct in the war in Gaza has been growing — even from its closest ally, the United States, which warned against an invasion of the southern city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter from fighting elsewhere. And this week alone, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for another U.N. court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, along with Hamas officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under heavy pressure at home to end the war, which was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel, killing 1,200 people, most civilians, and taking some 250 captive. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring the hostages home, fearing that time is running out.

While the International Court of Justice has broad powers to order an end to the Israeli military campaign, it does not have a police force to enforce its orders. In another case on its docket, Russia has so far ignored a 2022 order by the court to halt its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza Strip.

Israel at War

UN halts all food distribution in Rafah after running out of supplies in the southern Gaza city

AP via Scripps News
5:45 PM, May 21, 2024

Israel signaled it, too, would brush off an ICJ order to stop its operations. “No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza,” Avi Hyman, the government spokesperson, said in a press briefing Thursday.

The court has already found that Israel's military operations pose a “real and imminent risk” to the Palestinian people in Gaza. On Monday, its chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said he has asked ICC judges to approve arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three top Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Israel is not an ICC member, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.