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ICJ orders Israel to open more land crossings for Gaza aid

March 28, 2024

The top UN court told Israel to take measures "without delay" to open more border crossings for the transport of food and medical aid. UN officials say Gaza is on the brink of famine as Israel continues fighting Hamas.

Aid from the Egyptian Red Crescent entering Gaza on December 18, 2023
The Kerem Shalom crossing allows trucks carrying aid from Egypt and Israel into GazaImage: Abed Rahim Khatib/dpa

The United Nations's top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on Thursday ordered Israel to take all measures to address Gaza's humanitarian crisis, including opening more land crossings to allow desperately needed aid into the Palestinian territory.

"Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, but...famine is setting in," the Hague-based court said.

The new measures were requested as part of an ongoing case brought by South Africa, which asked the ICJ to consider whether Israel is committing genocide in its military campaign launched in Gaza after the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas militants.

The Israeli military has repeatedly said that Israel is ready to let in unlimited amounts of aid into Gaza but that international aid organizations are unable to distribute the aid, leading to the bottleneck.

Yet Israeli allies, including the United States and Germany, have voiced concerns over the lack of access for aid deliveries. In response to the situation, aid is also being delivered by air and sea but aid agencies say those methods are less efficient than land-based deliveries.

US rejects Hamas plea to stop Gaza aid airdrops

South Africa sought provisional measures

In January, the ICJ, also known as the World Court, made a preliminary ruling ordering Israel to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza but stopped short of telling it to halt the war.

It also instructed Israel to "take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance."

The genocide case will take years to finalize, but South Africa sought more provisional measures, citing starvation in Gaza.

The UN and international aid groups blame Israeli military restrictions, ongoing hostilities, and a breakdown in public order for hampering deliveries.

In its new order on Thursday, the ICJ told Israel to take measures "without delay" to ensure "the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance," including food, water, fuel, and medical supplies.

"Including by increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary," the court said.

Frustration over aid deliveries

There were no immediate new comments from Israel on the ruling.

It launched its operation in Gaza after Hamas militants crossed the Israeli border with Gaza in October, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

As Israel's war against Hamas progressed, more than half of Gaza's total population of some 2.1 million has taken refuge in Rafah in the south of the territory.

The UN has said northern Gaza, where some Palestinians still remain, is on the brink of famine, and the entire territory's health system is collapsing.

Hunger in Gaza reaches catastrophic levels

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire as concern mounted about the full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.

lo/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)