ICJ orders Israel to halt operation in Rafah

For the first time, the International Court of Justice has called on Israel to suspend military operations in its conflict with Hamas. On Friday, it handed down what is known as a provisional measure to "immediately halt" the offensive in Rafah.

Judges at the court in The Hague say the fighting has resulted in humanitarian conditions that they call "disastrous."

The President of the ICJ, Nawaf Salam, said the situation arising from the offensive in Rafah entails a further risk of "irreparable" harm to the rights of Palestinians.

The judges had previously ordered Israel to take all possible measures to prevent the mass killings of civilians and to ensure the distribution of humanitarian aid. However, they are not convinced that those efforts have been sufficient.

Many residents have been repeatedly forced to evacuate in the wake of the offensive in Rafah, so the judges are asking for more measures, including ensuring that the Rafah crossing remain open for "unhindered" humanitarian aid.

The officials from South Africa who submitted the request to the court welcomed the ruling.

Zane Dangor, the director-general of the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said, "This order is groundbreaking, as it is the first time that explicit mention is made for Israel to halt its military action in any area of Gaza."

Israeli leaders are defending those actions and have called South Africa's charges of genocide "false" and "outrageous."

Rulings handed down by the ICJ are binding, but the court has no power to enforce its orders. Israeli leaders are vowing to continue the operation, which may result in renewed criticism from the international community.