Thursday, February 22, 2024

Security Council to meet after UN top court’s Gaza ruling

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The UN Security Council will meet next week over the decision by the global body’s top court calling for Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza, announced the council’s presidency.

The health ministry in Gaza says the Israeli invasion has killed at least 26,083 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.

The Wednesday meeting was called for by Algeria, whose ministry of foreign affairs said it would give “binding effect to the pronouncement of the International Court of Justice on the provisional measures imposed on the Israeli occupation.”

The ICJ on Friday said Israel must prevent genocidal acts in its war with Gaza and allow aid into the besieged enclave, but stopped short of calling for an end to the fighting.

The decision “gives the clear message that in order to do all the things that they are asking for, you need a ceasefire for it to happen,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said.

“So fasten your seat belts,” he said, hinting that the Arab Group, represented on the council by Algeria, would push for one.

The Security Council, long divided on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, has only agreed to two resolutions since the October 7 attacks sparked the brutal Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

In December, it demanded aid deliveries “at scale” to Gaza’s besieged population, while Israel’s ally the United States has kept out calls for a ceasefire despite international pressure.

The European Union called for the “immediate” application of the ICJ’s decision.

The ruling in The Hague was based on an urgent application brought by South Africa, long a supporter of the Palestinian cause, but a broader judgment on whether genocide has been committed could take years.

The ICJ, based in The Hague, while refraining from ordering an immediate halt to the almost four-month-old war, said Israel must do everything to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Civilians trapped by fighting in Gaza

Thousands of civilians were trapped in southern Gaza by bombardment and fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters on Saturday.

Growing alarm has focused on Khan Yunis, the biggest city in Gaza’s south, where the two main hospitals were barely functioning under the weight of the relentless bombardment and the press of thousands in need.

Witnesses reported more overnight strikes on Khan Yunis, the current epicentre of Israel’s assault on Gaza, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said some of the dead and wounded had been taken to the city’s barely functioning Al-Amal hospital.

A person looks on as displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter at a tent camp. PHOTO: Reuters

The strikes came after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must prevent possible acts of genocide in its war against Hamas.

“This is the first time the world has told Israel that it is out of line,” said Maha Yasin, a 42-year-old displaced Palestinian woman in Gaza. “What Israel did to us in Gaza for four months has never happened in history.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the case as “outrageous”.

Fierce fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters has raged for days around Khan Yunis, forcing tens of thousands to flee further south to Rafah on the border with Egypt.

With a humanitarian crisis growing in Khan Yunis and northern areas of Gaza, UN agencies say most of the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians displaced by the war are crowded into Rafah.

At Khan Yunis’s Nasser Hospital, the largest in the besieged city, Doctors Without Borders said surgical capacity was “virtually non-existent”.

The international medical aid organisation said in a news release that medical services at the hospital had “collapsed” and the few staff who remained “must contend with very low supplies that are insufficient to handle mass casualty events”.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media platform X that 350 patients and 5,000 people displaced by the fighting remained at the hospital and that fighting in the vicinity continued.

He said the Nasser Hospital was “running out of food, fuel and supplies” and called for an immediate ceasefire so they could be replenished.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli tanks were targeting Al-Amal hospital, another of the few remaining medical facilities in Khan Yunis, and that it was “under siege with heavy gunfire”.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, accused the WHO this week of collusion with Hamas by ignoring Israeli evidence of Hamas’s “military use” of Gaza hospitals.

Tedros rejected the accusation, saying it could “endanger our staff who are risking their lives to serve the vulnerable”.

Relations between Israel and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees soured after the UNRWA said tanks had shelled one of its shelters in Khan Yunis on Wednesday, killing 13 people.

A security source told AFP on Friday that the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency will meet officials from Israel, Egypt and Qatar “in the coming days in Paris” to try to reach a deal with Hamas.

A week-long truce in November saw an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, however, the White House warned that “imminent developments” are unlikely.

The war has led to fears of wider conflict, and US forces said they had struck a target in Huthi-held Yemen after an attack on a British tanker in the Gulf of Aden.


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