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After ICJ ruling: Israel insists it doesn’t intentionally harm civilians in Rafah, continues military operation

Israel 'will act to reduce harm caused to the civilian population in Gaza'

Israeli soldiers operate in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

In its military operation in Rafah, Israel is already acting according to the order issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council stated, implying that Israel is not halting its ongoing incursion in the city.

In a case alleging genocide brought forward by South Africa, the ICJ ruled that “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry and National Security Council emphasized that “Israel has not and will not conduct military actions in the Rafah area which may inflict on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

With this statement, Israel adheres to the interpretation of the order supported by four ICJ judges, including Court Vice President Sebutinde, who warned against misinterpreting the ICJ ruling as prohibiting Israel from conducting its military operations in Rafah.

Instead, the judges said the order enabled the IDF to continue with its operation in Rafah while being conscious of its responsibilities under the Genocide Convention.

“The charges of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice in the Hague are false, outrageous and morally repugnant,” the statement continued.

“Following the horrific attack against the citizens of Israel on October 7th, 2023, Israel embarked upon a defensive and just war to eliminate Hamas and to secure the release of our hostages. Israel is acting based on its right to defend its territory and its citizens, consistent with its moral values and in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law.”

In the statement, Israel also vowed to continue enabling humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza, keeping the Rafah border crossing open for humanitarian aid deliveries from Egypt, and preventing terror groups from controlling the passage.

Israel “will act, in full compliance with the law, to reduce as much as possible harm caused to the civilian population in Gaza.”

Following the ICJ’s ruling, the Cabinet ministers were instructed not to comment on it publicly. Nevertheless, Israel's right-wing firebrands Ben Gvir and Smotrich released statements shortly before the start of the Sabbath.

“The irrelevant order of the antisemitic tribunal in The Hague should have only one answer,” wrote National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. “The occupation of Rafah, the increase of military pressure and the complete defeat of Hamas – until complete victory in the war is achieved.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said, “Those who demand that the State of Israel stop the war, demand that it decree the cessation of its existence – we will not agree to that. We will continue to fight for ourselves and for the entire free world. History will judge who stood by the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS today.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid also condemned the ICJ ruling, while at the same time criticizing the Netanyahu government.

“Israel is the one that was brutally attacked from Gaza and had to defend itself against a horrible terrorist organization that murdered children, raped women and still fires rockets at innocent civilians,” said Lapid.

“There is no country in the world that would not react with force to such an attack. This verdict could and should have been prevented. A sane and professional government would have prevented [incendiary] statements from ministers and stopped criminals who burn aid trucks,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed the ICJ order.

“The presidency welcomes the decision issued by the International Court of Justice, which represents an international consensus on the demand to stop the all-out war on Gaza,” PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

While Hamas also praised the ICJ ruling, senior Hamas official Basem Naim told Reuters, “We believe it is not enough since the occupation’s aggression across the Gaza Strip, especially in northern Gaza, is just as brutal and dangerous.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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