Israel escalates Rafah bombing despite ICJ order to halt assault, ignoring international condemnation

Reports from Gaza reveal that Israel intensified its bombing of Rafah just minutes after the International Court of Justice ordered a halt to the military operations, prompting widespread international condemnation.

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Image Credit: Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP

Israel responded to an International Court of Justice (ICJ) order to halt its military operations in Rafah by ramping up its assault on the southern Gaza city, according to reports from civilians and journalists on the ground. The escalation has drawn sharp condemnation from international human rights organizations and raised serious questions about Israel’s compliance with international law.

The ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, ordered Israel to cease its military actions in Rafah amid accusations of genocide in a broader case led by South Africa. The order came as part of ongoing international scrutiny over Israel’s actions in Gaza, which have resulted in significant civilian casualties and widespread destruction.

Al Jazeera Arabic reported violent airstrikes on Rafah just minutes after the ICJ ruling. Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha, who recently fled to Cairo, described the immediate intensification of bombings: “Just a few minutes after the ICJ ordered the criminal Israeli army to halt its Rafah offensive, now more and more airstrikes on houses in the middle of Rafah.” Abu Toha called for a permanent cease-fire and an end to the siege and occupation.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor chief of communications Muhammad Shehada noted that Israeli media was “gloating” about the “belt of fire” attacks, a tactic involving indiscriminate bombing with a large number of simultaneous airstrikes.

The intensified airstrikes have not been limited to Rafah. Reports indicate Israeli strikes also targeted Gaza City and the Jabalia refugee camp, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave. According to Gaza officials, the conflict has killed at least 35,857 Palestinians and wounded another 80,293.

The United Nations estimates that over 900,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah due to the ongoing assault. The humanitarian conditions in Gaza are deteriorating rapidly, with limited access to food, water, and medical supplies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with key ministers following the ICJ order. Tzachi Hanegbi, head of the Israeli National Security Council, and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson issued a joint statement condemning the ICJ ruling as “false, outrageous, and morally repugnant.” They insisted that Israel is waging a “defensive and just war to eliminate Hamas and secure the release of our hostages.”

Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz echoed this sentiment, claiming that Israel is operating in accordance with international law. “The state of Israel is committed to continue fighting to return its hostages and promise the security of its citizens—wherever and whenever necessary—including in Rafah,” Gantz stated.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir responded more aggressively, calling the ICJ an “antisemitic court” and advocating for the occupation of Rafah and increased military pressure.

The ICC’s prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders for crimes committed since October 7. International human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, have condemned Israel’s actions. B’Tselem stated, “Violence and disregard for human life are keystones of the Israeli apartheid regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” and called for an immediate halt to military activity in Gaza.

Former Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth criticized the lack of international action, particularly from the United States. “The Israeli government is already thumbing its nose at the International Court of Justice with airstrikes on Rafah,” Roth said. “Is there anything that Netanyahu could do that might finally get Biden to take action—stopping arms or allowing Security Council action?”

The ICJ and ICC play crucial roles in upholding international law. Historical precedents show the challenges of enforcing rulings against powerful nations. The ongoing conflict in Gaza tests these institutions’ ability to protect civilians and hold perpetrators accountable for alleged war crimes.

“With the Israeli government displaying blatant disregard for human life—of Palestinians and of the Israeli hostages—we, the citizens of Israel, must open our eyes. We must listen to the clear call from around the world: The violence, destruction, and killing must stop now,” stated B’Tselem.

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