Widening Middle East crisis: UN aid agency in Gaza says funding freeze threatens vital humanitarian work – World

A ruling on Friday by the International Court of Justice charging Israel with genocide had deep historical resonance for both Israelis and Palestinians. But it lacked immediate practical results.

The World Court has not ordered a halt to the war in the Gaza Strip and has made no attempt to rule on the merits of the case brought by South Africa, a process that will take months – if not years – to complete.

But the court ordered Israel to comply with the Genocide Convention, send more aid to Gaza and inform the court of its efforts to do so — interim measures that seemed a rebuke to many Israelis and a moral victory to many Palestinians.

For many Israelis, a state founded after the Holocaust accused of genocide is “a symbol of hell,” Alan Pincus, an Israeli political commentator and former ambassador, said after the court ruling. the hague

“We even mention the concept of genocide in the same sentence – not even atrocities, not disproportionate force, not war crimes, but genocide – it's very uncomfortable,” he added.

For many Palestinians, the court's intervention provided a brief sense of legitimacy to their cause. Palestinians and their supporters say Israel has rarely been held accountable for its actions, and the ruling appears to be a welcome exception amid the deadliest war this century.


“Killing is going on, genocide is going on, total destruction is going on,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian official. But the court's decision reflects “a serious transformation in the way Israel is perceived and treated globally,” he said.

“Israel is being held accountable for the first time – and by the highest court and by an almost unanimous verdict,” he added.

Israeli attack on the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Friday.credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For Gazans, the intervention will bring little immediate relief.

Israel's offensive in Gaza has killed more than 25,000 Gazans, according to Gaza officials, and damaged most of the territory's buildings, according to the United Nations. More than four in five residents there have been displaced from their homes, health systems have collapsed and the United Nations has repeatedly warned of famine.

In ordering compliance with the Genocide Convention, the court pressed Israel to follow an international law created in 1948 that prohibits signatory states from killing members of an ethnic, national or religious group, even in part for the purpose of destroying that particular group. .

To many Israelis, the decision appeared to be the latest example of bias against Israel in international forums. They say that Israel is held to higher standards than the rest of the world. And to the Israeli mainstream, the war is a necessity and a matter of survival — forced on Israel by an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 in Gaza, according to Israeli estimates.

Yoav Galant, the Israeli defense minister whose inflammatory statements about the war were quoted by the court in preamble to its ruling, called the court's ruling anti-Semitic.

“The State of Israel does not need to lecture on morality to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population of Gaza,” said Mr. Gallant.

“Those who seek justice will not find it in the leather chair of the Hague court,” he added.

Still, the court's directive could give momentum and political cover to Israeli officials who are pressing domestically to moderate military operations in Gaza and reduce the humanitarian crisis in the territory, according to Janina Dill, an expert on international law at Oxford University.

“Any dissenting voices in the Israeli government and the Israeli military who disagree with how the war has been conducted thus far must have been given a strong strategic argument to urge a change of course,” Professor Deal said.

Palestinians fleeing to a safe area south of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, through the city's western exit on the outskirts of his refugee camp on Friday.credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For Professor Deal, the case also prompted reflection “about the human condition”, as Israel was founded in part to prevent genocide against the Jewish people.

“Preventing people from turning against each other is a constant struggle, and no group in the world is immune to it,” he added.

It's an issue that appears to preoccupy the only Israeli judge, Aharon Barak, among the 17 to assess the case at the World Court.

As a child, Mr. Barak, 87, survived the Holocaust after escaping a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania by hiding in a sack.

“The genocide casts a shadow over the history of the Jewish people, and it is intertwined with my own personal experience,” Mr. Barak said wrote. “The idea that Israel is now being accused of genocide is very difficult for me personally, as a Holocaust survivor and deeply aware of Israel's commitment to the rule of law as a democratic state.”

Against that complicated backdrop, Mr. Barak chose to vote against several measures taken by the court. But he joined his colleagues in calling for Israel to allow more aid to Gaza and punish those who incite the massacres — surprising observers who expected him to side with Israel on every point.

While many Israelis expressed disappointment at the ruling, some were relieved that the court did not order Israel to end its military operations.

Harun Barak at home in Tel Aviv last year. He was among the 17 judges who assessed the case at the World Court.credit…Abhishag Shar-Yashuv for The New York Times

According to Mr. Barak, this course would have left Israel “vulnerable in the face of a brutal attack, unable to fulfill its most basic duty to its citizens.”

“It would be tantamount to tying both Israel's hands, even denying it the ability to fight in accordance with international law,” he wrote.

But to some Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, that same decision feels betrayed. Many had hoped the court would call on Israel to stop fighting altogether – a move that would be nearly impossible to enforce but would constitute a victory in the battle for public opinion.

“It talks like genocide and acts like genocide,” said Muhammad Shehada, a Gaza rights activist. wrote On social media. “Although there is no need to stop the genocidal war! all good?”

Six hours after the court's verdict, Gazan's health ministry released the latest figures on the war's casualties. An additional 200 Gazans were killed in the past 24 hours, the ministry said Friday evening.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad Reporting contributions from Haifa, Israel, and Janatan Rais From Tel Aviv.

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