How the world reacted to ICJ ruling on Rafah offensive

UN court orders Israel to stop its military operations in city in southern Gaza

Israeli military vehicles on the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Reuters
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The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and to open up the crossing with Egypt to allow for the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid.

Israel is unlikely to comply with the order from the UN's highest court, which has no way of enforcing it, but the decision puts Israel at risk of further isolation as it continues its war in Gaza.

Here's a look at some of the reaction to the order:

Hamas

Hamas, which triggered the war by launching an attack on Israeli communities on October 7, hailed the UN top court's ruling but criticised its decision to exclude the rest of war-torn Gaza from the order.

The Palestinian militant group “welcomes the decision of the International Court of Justice”, it said in a statement, adding however that it expected the ICJ ruling to “put an end to the aggression and genocide against our people throughout the Gaza Strip, and not just in Rafah”.

“What is happening in Jabalia and other parts of this (northern) sector is no less criminal and dangerous than what's happening in Rafah,” it said.

Israeli opposition

Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the ICJ’s ruling.

“Israel is the one who was brutally attacked and forced to defend itself against a terrible terrorist organisation that slaughters children, rapes women and fires rockets at civilians,” Mr Lapid said.

He also partly blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allowing the ICJ declaration to happen, by failing to rein in the extremist, ultra-right wing voices in his government.

“A sane and professional government would have prevented insane ministers from expressing themselves publicly, would have arrested criminals who set fire to aid convoys, and conducted diplomatic endeavours quietly and efficiently,” he added.

Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ICJ's ruling

“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,” Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

EU's Josep Borrell

Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat said: “What is going to be the EU's answer to the ruling of the International Court of Justice that has been issued today, what is going to be our position?

“We will have to choose between our support to international institutions of the rule of law or our support to Israel.”

Dissenting voices

In Friday's 13-2 ICJ ruling, the only dissenters were Israeli-appointed judge Aharon Barak and Uganda's Julia Sebutinde.

Judge Barak said the ICJ should not have bowed to “great pressure” to intervene, while Judge Sebutinde called the order an “overreach by the court”.

German judge Georg Nolte sided with the majority “only after considerable hesitation” and said the court “must be careful not to overstep the limits of what it can and should do”.

However, he said he ultimately agreed that the “extraordinarily dramatic humanitarian situation” in Rafah required the court to go beyond vaguer instructions to Israel issued in January and March.

US quiet

The US has been a staunch supporter of Israel as it has conducted its offensive in Gaza, but has repeatedly called for Israel to show restraint in Rafah and to come up with a credible plan to protect civilians.

The White House did not directly comment on the ICJ ruling and instead said that it has been "clear and consistent" in its position regarding Rafah in its statement to news organisations.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, described the ICJ ruling as “ridiculous”.

Updated: May 24, 2024, 10:13 PM