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“Famine sets in”: International court orders Israel to take “effective measures” in Gaza

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In a unanimous decision, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take “all necessary and effective measures” to prevent a further deterioration of the “catastrophic living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

Putting even more pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the judges observed that “Palestinians in Gaza no longer face just the risk of famine… but that famine is setting in”, and called for urgent action to prevent mass starvation.

The court called on Israel to increase the number of land crossing points into Gaza and to work with the United Nations to ensure that enough food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing and other essential products enter the territory.

The new measures were requested by South Africa as part of an ongoing case which accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

Israel categorically denies the allegation, saying it is engaged in self-defense military activities and has asked the ICJ not to issue these interim orders.

Although they are considered legally binding, there is no realistic way to enforce them.

South Africa submitted its case in late 2023, but proceedings before the ICJ often take years before a judgment is rendered. The court issued a first directive on January 26, ordering Israel to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and prevent alleged acts of genocide from occurring.

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With the adoption of these additional measures, the court said it was acting because the situation had changed, using strong language that will worry some Israelis.

“Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the judges said, “have been subjected… to prolonged and widespread deprivation of food and basic necessities.”

The Court’s decision is another symbol of Israel’s growing isolation on the international stage. The UN Security Council this week adopted a resolution calling for a immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

This decision comes after months of impasse on the issue.

Fourteen council members, including the United Kingdom, voted for the resolution, which also called for the unconditional release of remaining hostages held by Hamas and an urgent expansion of humanitarian aid.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, abstained.

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