ICJ orders Israel to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, demands report in 30 days

Court says existing provisional humanitarian measures in Strip are inadequate, with ‘famine setting in’; Foreign Ministry denies limits placed on relief, blaming Hamas

Judges enter the United Nations' highest court during hearings in The Hague, Netherlands on February 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Judges enter the United Nations' highest court during hearings in The Hague, Netherlands on February 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The International Court of Justice issued new provisional measures aimed at Israel on Thursday, ordering it to increase the provision of basic humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip, including food, water, fuel and shelter, due to what it said are worsening living conditions for Palestinians in the war-torn territory.

“The catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further, in particular in view of the prolonged and widespread deprivation of food and other basic necessities to which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected,” the court said in its decision.

The Palestinian Authority and South Africa, which petitioned the court, welcomed the decision, while Israel said it was working to expand aid and denied limiting relief, blaming Hamas for dire conditions in the Strip.

“Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine… but that famine is setting in,” the court said on Thursday, noting that “the provisional measures indicated in the Order of 26 January 2024 do not fully address the consequences arising from the changes in the situation… thus justifying the modification of these measures.”

On January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to comply with a series of provisional measures based on its finding that there was plausibility to an application filed by South Africa against Israel that Israel’s actions in Gaza fall under the scope of the Genocide Convention.

Lawyers for Israel denied allegations of deliberately causing humanitarian suffering in the enclave, where hunger is rising, and said South Africa’s repeated requests for additional measures were an abuse of procedures.

Parachutes of humanitarian aid drop over Gaza on March 26, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The ICJ on Thursday reaffirmed those measures and further ordered Israel to ensure “the unhindered provision at scale… of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene and sanitation requirements,” and to allow in medical supplies, as well as “increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary.”

The court also ordered Israel to ensure that the military “does not commit acts” that violate the Genocide Convention, “including by preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance,” and ordered Israel to report back to the court within one month.

In a statement late Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said it was looking to expand aid delivery options and the amount of relief getting into the Strip, denying it placed any limit on the aid.

“Israel will continue to promote new initiatives, and to expand existing ones, in order to enable and facilitate the flow of aid to the Gaza Strip in a continuous and extensive manner, by land, air, and sea, together with UN bodies and other partners in the international community,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat said in a statement posted on X. “This includes ongoing efforts to increase the scale, and means of access for such aid despite the operational challenges on the ground and Hamas׳s active and abhorrent efforts to commandeer, hoard, and steal aid.”

Jerusalem also accused South Africa of making “cynical attempts” to exploit the world court to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense and to win the release of remaining hostages.

South Africa, which accused Israel of genocide at the ICJ, welcomed Thursday’s decision, calling it “significant.”

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks, but also by disease and starvation, indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist,” the South African president said in a statement.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry thanked South Africa, calling the case “a vital step in the global effort to hold Israel accountable for perpetrating genocide.”

Israel blames the ailing humanitarian situation on aid agencies’ failure to distribute supplies, and on Hamas and armed groups who have looted trucks entering the Gaza. The agencies say their work has become far more difficult amid the fighting and a lack of security for aid convoys.

COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body governing civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, on Saturday, posted an image of what it said was aid that had “accumulated” on the other side of the border at Rafah and was waiting for distribution by the United Nations.

“This is the equivalent of hundreds of aid trucks — which isn’t being distributed to Gazan civilians. We remain committed to the transfer of aid to Gaza,” it wrote on X.

Washington on Thursday said it was still reviewing the ICJ’s most recent decision and had no immediate comment on its substance.

“But as a general proposition, of course, increasing humanitarian assistance to Gaza is something that we support and something that we have urged Israel to help facilitate,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Earlier in March, South Africa approached the ICJ to request additional preliminary measures against Israel, “in light of the new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza — particularly the situation of widespread starvation — brought about by the continuing egregious breaches” of the convention by Israel.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, said in mid-March that Israel had defied the January ruling, alleging a campaign of “starvation” in Gaza amid Israel’s war against Hamas.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, center, leaves the building after a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post).

Among the preliminary measures requested by South Africa was an emergency order for Israel to step up humanitarian aid to address what aid organizations warn is a looming famine.

Aid groups say all of Gaza is mired in a humanitarian crisis, with the situation in the largely isolated north standing out. Many of the estimated 300,000 people still living in northern Gaza have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive, according to some accounts.

The UN says that one in six children under the age of 2 in the north suffers from acute malnutrition. In total, around 1.1 million people — about half the population — are said to be experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

The war began with a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which thousands of Palestinian terrorists killed around 1,200 people and took 253 hostages. More than 100 of them were released during a weeklong temporary ceasefire in November, leaving 130 people captive in Gaza, of whom 33 are no longer alive, according to Israeli military intelligence.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry has said that more than 31,800 people have been killed since the start of the war, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: