OPN ICJ court
A general view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands Image Credit: Reuters

The recent ruling handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on March 28, demanding Israel to permit the unimpeded passage of food and medical aid into Gaza, stands as a pivotal moment. This decree from the ICJ arrives merely three days following a United Nations Security Council resolution urging an immediate ceasefire, a call which Israel has yet to heed.

The ICJ’s sequence of directives aims to compel Israel into allowing uninterrupted humanitarian aid flow into Gaza, where the populace teeters on the brink of famine. The court’s unanimous verdict responds to urgent alarms of a humanitarian catastrophe looming in Gaza, with reports warning of famine striking within a matter of weeks.

The situation in Gaza has deteriorated to catastrophic levels, with famine threatening lives and communities. As the UN observers have pointed out already 31 people in Gaza, including 27 children have already due to malnutrition. It is imperative for the global community to rally together, demanding swift action to alleviate this dire humanitarian crisis.

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The ICJ’s decision, made unanimously, underscores the gravity of the situation. Even the judge from Israel sided with the verdict. While calling for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas, the ICJ highlights that Palestinians in Gaza are not just at risk of famine, but famine is already taking hold. This is not a hypothetical scenario; it’s a harsh reality faced by millions of people who are on the brink of starvation.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been compounded by ongoing hostilities and Israeli-imposed access restrictions. Reports of Israeli forces impeding aid deliveries and targeting crucial infrastructure like hospitals are deeply troubling, breaching both international law and exacerbating civilian suffering.

Israel’s denial of accusations regarding aid blockades is not only baseless but also perilously negligent. The ICJ’s ruling directly responds to the worsening conditions in Gaza, where essential provisions like food, water, and medical supplies remain scarce. It’s a clear directive for Israel to uphold its international obligations and ensure the welfare of civilians within the territories it occupies.

In its ruling, the ICJ stresses the urgent necessity for basic services and humanitarian assistance to reach the Palestinian population in Gaza without delay. This includes vital supplies such as food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene products, and medical aid. The court insists that Israel must take immediate and effective actions to ensure aid provision, collaborating fully with the United Nations.

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The ICJ’s decision builds upon previous orders issued in January, prompted by South Africa’s complaint alleging Israeli genocide in Gaza. The court reaffirms these measures, expanding them to address the worsening humanitarian crisis, particularly the looming famine. Israel refutes claims of genocide, asserting its military actions in Gaza as acts of self-defense.

Despite Israel’s assertions of allowing aid into Gaza, international officials and NGOs accuse the country of obstructing life-saving assistance deliveries. Israel argues for aid inspections to prevent support reaching militant groups in Gaza. However, aid officials criticize the sluggish and arbitrary inspection process, often leading to significant delivery delays.

Legally binding orders

The ICJ lacks the power to enforce its rulings, but its orders are legally binding. Israel must work in full cooperation with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations to facilitate the delivery of aid. This includes not only allowing aid shipments to enter Gaza but also ensuring that they reach those in need without unnecessary delays or impediments.

The court has called for Israel to submit a report detailing its compliance with the ruling within one month. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Gaza remains dire, with reports of heavy fighting around and widespread devastation at the Al Shifa hosipital.

The ruling by the ICJ underscores the urgent need for action to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ensure that essential aid reaches the vulnerable population. However, the effectiveness of the court’s orders will depend on Israel’s willingness to comply and facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza amid the ongoing conflict and political tensions in the region.

The ICJ’s ruling is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Despite previous orders from the ICJ, Israel has not complied, with reports indicating an escalation of violations, including acts that could constitute genocide against the Palestinian people.

The international community must do more to pressure Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza and end its military campaign. The United Nations Security Council, in particular, has a responsibility to ensure compliance with the court’s decision and to take further measures if necessary.

The UN Security Council has regrettably failed thus far to enforce a ceasefire in the ongoing war, which has already claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza over nearly six months. It should not stand aside and take no action while Israel employs hunger as a weapon of war against two million people in Gaza.

Famine is not just a humanitarian issue; it’s a moral imperative that demands urgent action. The world cannot stand idly by while innocent lives hang in the balance. It’s time to hold Israel accountable and to ensure that the people of Gaza receive the assistance they so desperately need. Anything less would be a grave injustice and a failure of our collective humanity.