The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to take immediate measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow for the entry of essential supplies such as food, water, fuel, and medical assistance. The court issued these provisional measures in response to a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after attacks by Hamas. Israel denies the genocide allegations and argues that its military actions are in self-defense against Hamas, not the Palestinian people.

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, resulting in thousands of Palestinian casualties and displacement of over 80% of Gaza’s population. The ongoing conflict has led to widespread damage and severe shortages of basic necessities, with reports of hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, especially in northern Gaza. The U.N. and international aid agencies have raised concerns about the dire situation in Gaza and the need for immediate humanitarian assistance.

South Africa has welcomed the ICJ’s decision, calling it significant in recognizing the need to protect the Palestinian population’s right to exist. Israel, on the other hand, has rejected the claims made by South Africa, describing them as unfounded and morally repugnant. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has not provided an immediate response to the court’s order, but Israel has maintained that it allows the entry of humanitarian supplies into Gaza without restrictions and has criticized the U.N. for failing to adequately coordinate aid deliveries.

The ICJ’s order comes as reports indicate that famine is setting in Gaza, with at least 31 people, including 27 children, having already died of malnutrition and dehydration. The court highlighted the urgent need to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on Israel to report back on its implementation of the orders within a month. The ongoing conflict and restrictions imposed by Israel have hindered the delivery of aid, with efforts to distribute humanitarian assistance through land crossings facing challenges due to ongoing hostilities and breakdown of public order.

Israel has been working on a plan to begin deliveries of aid by sea and has accused the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) of cooperating with Hamas. The ICJ’s latest order is aimed at ensuring the unhindered provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, as well as preventing actions by Israel’s military that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention. The court has emphasized the need for urgent action to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and address the growing challenges faced by the Palestinian population.

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