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The Latest | Israel must stop Rafah offensive and open border for aid, UN court rules
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The Latest | Israel must stop Rafah offensive and open border for aid, UN court rules

  • PublishedMay 24, 2024



The International Court ordered Israel to stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and to open the vital border crossing for aid, saying Friday that “the humanitarian situation is now to be characterized as disastrous.” It also demanded access to Gaza for war crimes investigators.

However, judges on the top United Nations court stopped short of ordering a full cease-fire throughout the Palestinian territory, and Israel is unlikely to comply with the court’s ruling.

Israel faces global criticism over the mounting death toll and devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. More than a million Palestinians fled Rafah in recent weeks as Israeli forces pressed deeper into the city. People displaced by fighting lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the U.N. humanitarian agency said Wednesday.

The cease-fire request is part of a case filed late last year by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide during its Gaza campaign. Israel vehemently denies the allegations. The case at will take years to resolve, but South Africa wants interim orders to protect Palestinians while the legal wrangling continues.

At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Currently:

— Israel’s army says the bodies of three more hostages killed on Oct. 7 were recovered overnight from Gaza.

Top U.N. court orders Israel to halt military operation in Rafah; Israel is unlikely to comply.

— The Security Council will vote on resolution decrying attacks on the U.N. and aid workers, and demanding protection.

Iran inters its late president at the holiest Shiite site in the nation after a fatal helicopter crash.

— More aid is getting from the U.S. pier to people in Gaza after a troubled launch.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

ISRAEL SAYS ITS RAFAH OFFENSIVE IS NOT CAUSING CONDITIONS FOR ‘THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE’

JERUSALEM — The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says accusations it is committing a genocide in Gaza are “false, outrageous and morally repugnant.”

“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,” Netanyahu’s government said Friday.

The statement came in response to the International Court of Justice ruling that ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah and allow the entry of desperately needed humanitarian aid for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The amount of U.N. aid entering the Gaza Strip has dropped dramatically since Israel launched its offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 6.

AFTER CALL WITH BIDEN, EGYPT SAYS IT WILL SEND AID TRUCKS TO SOUTHERN GAZA THROUGH ISRAEL

CAIRO — Egypt says it has agreed to send humanitarian aid trucks and fuel through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza for the United Nations, after a call between President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and U.S. President Joe Biden.

The agreement aims to reverse a dramatic drop in U.N. aid entering the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 6. Whether it will do so remains unclear, as U.N. officials say they are largely unable to reach the Kerem Shalom crossing to pick up the aid that enters, because fighting in the area makes it too dangerous.

Egypt had halted cooperation with Israel on entry of aid into Gaza after Israeli troops seized the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt during its offensive. Egypt says Palestinian officials must be put back in charge of Rafah crossing. Most humanitarian aid for Gaza comes from Egypt, and most of that was previously flowing on trucks through Rafah.

In a statement Friday, el-Sissi’s office said he had spoken by phone with Biden and agreed to temporarily send trucks carrying humanitarian aid and fuel for the United Nations to the Kerem Shalom crossing. It said Rafah crossing would not be reactivated until a legal framework is found.

The White House has become increasingly frustrated with Egypt over the aid issue and U.S. official have conveyed to Egypt that more aid should be flowing through Kerem Shalom, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The U.N., however, has said it can rarely reach Kerem Shalom to pick up the entering aid because of the untenable security situation. Commercial trucks have continued to flow through the crossing, bringing food and other supplies for sale in Gaza markets.

___

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed.

PALESTINIAN U.N. AMBASSADOR SAYS ARAB NATIONS WANT ICJ ORDER IMPLEMENTED WITHOUT DELAY

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, speaking on behalf of Arab nations, said they expect the Friday’s ruling by the top U.N. court “to be implemented without hesitation – that’s mandatory.”

Riyad Mansour told U.N. journalists that Israel is a party to the International Court of Justice and a signatory to the Genocide Convention, “and the convention is crystal clear on this issue.”

“Israel has to abide by the decisions and the demands from the ICJ,” he said. Israel doesn’t accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction in this case, but the Genocide Convention allows disputes about the convention to be settled by the ICJ.

Surrounded by ambassadors from Arab nations, Mansour welcomed the court’s provisional measures including demanding a halt to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and the opening of Gaza’s crossing with Egypt to provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

He said the 22-member Arab group at the United Nations will do everything possible with the 120-member Nonaligned Movement, African nations and others to see the implementation of U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and ICJ rulings that among other things call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

This is critical to save lives “and to allow our people to start attending to the wounds inflicted upon them by this aggression of Israel,” Mansour said.

HUNDREDS OF PALESTINIANS MARCH IN WEST BANK DEMANDING MUSLIM NATIONS TAKE UP ARMS TO HALT ISRAEL’S WAR IN GAZA

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hundreds of Palestinians participated in an Islamist march in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, calling on Muslim nations to militarily intervene to end to Israel’s war in Gaza.

Demonstrators carried banners demanding action to liberate the Palestinian territories.

“This is a call to the Islamic nation to take action. It has the power, capability, and military forces necessary,” said Youssef Abu Zir, a member of the media team of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir which organized the protest.

“This destructive war must be stopped through the same force, through military action,” he said.

Also Friday, a group of Israeli and international protesters chained themselves to the gate of the U.S. office of Palestinian affairs in Jerusalem in protest of the Gaza war. Activists said that the police arrested seven demonstrators out of the few dozen present.

Videos posted to social media showed the police pushing protesters back and muscling demonstrators into squad cars. The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ISRAEL WON’T CHANGE COURSE IN RAFAH AFTER ICJ RULING, A WAR CAINET MEMBER SAYS

JERUSALEM — Benny Gantz, one of three members of Israel’s War Cabinet, indicated his country’s military won’t change its conduct in Rafah despite an order from the top U.N. court to halt the widening offensive there.

Gantz’s comments Friday were Israel’s most senior reaction to the International Court of Justice ruling, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not make an immediate public response.

Gantz said Israel “set out on a just and necessary campaign following the brutal massacre of its citizens,” which includes the sending troops into Rafah. Israel portrays the southern city as the last Hamas stronghold.

“We will continue operating in accordance with international law wherever we might operate, while safeguarding to the best extent possible the civilian population,” Gantz said. “Not because of the ICJ, but because of who we are and the values we stand for.”

The world court does not have a police force to enforce its orders, meaning Israel is unlikely to comply.

The court also ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing. But it did not call for a full cease-fire throughout Gaza as South Africa, which brought the case, requested at hearings last week.

SOUTH AFRICA WELCOMES ICJ ORDER ON GAZA, LOOKS TO U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL FOR ACTION

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa welcomed the top U.N. court’s order for Israel to stop its offensive in southern Gaza, and said it’s up to the U.N. Security Council to take action to enforce the ruling and alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said the International Court of Justice put forth a “much stronger” set of provisional measures on Friday which were a “very clear call for a cessation.” In an interview with state broadcaster SABC, she said South Africa’s allegation that a genocide is taking place is getting “stronger and stronger by the day.”

She said the U.N. Security Council has the responsibility to now determine measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

“We are all seeing the horror unfold and something needs to be done. And we cannot just rely on those who are the executioners of this ongoing onslaught to be the ones to stop it,” she said.

TOP U.N. COURT ORDERS ISRAEL TO HALT MILITARY OFFENSIVE IN RAFAH, BUT ISRAEL IS UNLIKELY TO COMPLY

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah — but stopped short of ordering a full cease-fire.

Although Israel is unlikely to comply with Friday’s order, it will ratchet up the pressure on the increasingly isolated country. Criticism of Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza has been growing, particularly on operations in Rafah.

It has even come from its closest ally, the United States. This week alone, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for another U.N. court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and Hamas officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under heavy pressure at home to end the war.

While the ruling by the International Court of Justice is a blow to Israel’s international standing, the court does not have a police force to enforce its orders. In another case on its docket, Russia has so far ignored a 2022 order by the court to halt its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

MACRON TO HOST TALKS WITH ARAB MINISTERS. CIA’S BURNS MEETING WITH ISRAELIS AND QATARIS IN PARIS

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron will host Qatar’s prime minister and other officials from Arab nations for talks on the Middle East on Friday, his office said.

It says the meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace will include, along with Qatar’s prime minister, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudia Arabia, and France. It says they’ll be discussing the Middle East but gave no details

Meanwhile in Washington, a U.S. official said CIA Director Bill Burns is meeting in Paris with Israelis and Qataris in informal talks aimed at getting hostage and cease-fire negotiations back on track, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the meetings.

The official gave no time for the discussions.

Burns is in close contact with Egyptian officials, the official said. The Qataris and Egyptians are serving as mediators with Hamas officials, who are not taking part in person in the talks.

__Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

GERMANY PRESSES ISRAEL AND HAMAS TO URGENTLY ALLOW MORE AID INTO GAZA

BERLIN — Germany pressed Israel and Hamas on Friday to urgently allow the entry and distribution of more humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christian Wagner said the situation in Gaza was “catastrophic and disastrous.”

“The Isreali government has stressed repeatedly that it wants to flood Gaza with humanitarian aid. Honestly speaking, that is not visible at the moment and that must urgently change,” Wagner said at a government news conference.

“For this, it is essential that more border crossings are opened,” he said. “It is also essential to secure the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza. Hamas also has a responsibility here as well as the Israeli army.”

Wagner said it was important to obtain the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas and to keep open the prospect of a political solution to the conflict.

Later Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated that demand and said that “the terror organization Hamas must finally release all the remaining hostages and agree to a long-term cease-fire.”

“At the same time, Israel must finally secure humanitarian supplies for the desperate people in Gaza,” he added. “Four hundred to five hundred truckloads of aid is needed every day, and it is the responsibility of the Israeli government to ensure that these deliveries arrive.”

Germany, a staunch ally of Israel, supports a revival of talks that could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has so far ruled out joining Norway, Ireland and Spain in recognizing Palestinian statehood, arguing that such a step should be part of the political process.

THE BODIES OF THREE HOSTAGES ARE RECOVERED FROM GAZA, ISRAELI ARMY SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — The bodies of three more hostages killed on Oct 7. were recovered overnight from Gaza, Israel’s army said Friday, as the country braces for the top United Nations court to rule on whether Israel must halt its military operations and withdraw from the enclave.

The bodies of Hanan Yablonka, Michel Nisenbaum, and Orion Hernandez Radoux were found and their families have been notified. The army said they were killed on the day of the attack at the Mefalsim intersection and their bodies were taken to Gaza.

The announcement comes less than a week after the army said it found the bodies of three other Israeli hostages killed on Oct. 7.

Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and abducted around 250 others in the Oct. 7 attack. Around half of those hostages have since been freed, most in swaps for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE WILL RULE ON SOUTH AFRICA’S PLEA TO ORDER ISRAEL TO WITHDRAW FROM GAZA

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top United Nations court is ruling Friday on an urgent plea by South Africa to order Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza and withdraw from the enclave.

Israel is unlikely to comply with any such order. Even so, a cease-fire order by judges of the International Court of Justice would heap more pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel as it continues its military assault on Gaza following the deadly Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas-led militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under heavy pressure at home to end the war. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring home Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity, fearing that time is running out.

The International Court of Justice has broad powers to order a cease-fire and other measures, but it does not have its own enforcement apparatus.

Friday’s ruling comes just days after the prosecutor of another court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court, announced he is seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu, as well as Israel’s defense minister and three Hamas leaders.

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL WILL VOTE ON A RESOLUTION DEMANDING THAT COMBATANTS PROTECT AID WORKERS

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a resolution that strongly condemns attacks on humanitarian workers and U.N. personnel. It also demands that all combatants protect them in accordance with international law.

The Swiss-sponsored resolution expresses grave concern at the growing number of attacks and threats against U.N. and humanitarian personnel and the disregard for and violations of international humanitarian law by combatants. Switzerland’s U.N. Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl told The Associated Press on Thursday that the resolution is about protecting those who are putting their lives at risk to help people affected by armed conflict.

The draft resolution does not single out any conflict and is being voted on as battles rage in Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar and many other hotspots around the world.

It is the seven-month war in Gaza, however, that has seen the greatest number of attacks on U.N. and humanitarian personnel. Over 190 U.N. staff have been killed, a death toll unprecedented in the United Nations’ nearly 80-year history, according to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.



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