Israel must take steps to allow more food and water into Gaza, UN top court orders

The top UN court on Thursday ordered Israel to take measures to tackle crippling shortages of essential supplies in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the area.

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

Israel strongly denies it is committing genocide and says its military campaign is self-defence.

Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a ceasefire, citing starvation in Gaza. Israel urged the court not to issue new orders.

In its legally binding order, the court told Israel to take “all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full co-operation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance,” including food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

WATCH | UN relief agency describes unravelling humanitarian situation in Gaza: 

Head of UN relief agency describes unravelling situation in Gaza

UNRWA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini tells The National’s Adrienne Arsenault about the pressures of the unravelling humanitarian situation in Gaza and responds to allegations that some of the organization’s workers were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel.

It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure “that its military does not commit acts which constitute a violation of any of the rights of the Palestinians in Gaza as a protected group under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, including by preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

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

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the order.

In a written response earlier this month to South Africa’s request for more measures, Israel said that claims by South Africa in its request were “wholly unfounded in fact and law, morally repugnant, and represent an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court itself.”

The court’s order said Palestinians in Gaza are “no longer facing only a risk of famine,” as noted in an earlier order on Jan. 26, “but that famine is setting in.”

The decision referred to a Monday report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said at least 31 people — including 27 children — have already died of malnutrition and dehydration.

The world court said that earlier orders imposed on Israel after landmark hearings in South Africa’s case “do not fully address the consequences arising from the changes in the situation” in Gaza.

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