Israel Palestine Conflict

Israel’s assault on Rafah would breach international court: UN rights chief

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Israel’s planned ground assault on Rafah in the Gaza Strip would contravene the orders issued by the United Nations’ highest court, the UN human rights chief said on Thursday.

“I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice,” Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council.

On January 26, the ICJ in The Hague - while it refrained from ordering an immediate halt to the war in Gaza - said Israel must do everything to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the Genocide Convention.

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The UN’s top court said Israel must facilitate “urgently needed” humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, which has been under relentless bombardment and siege since an attack in Israel by Hamas militants on October 7.

“The prospect of an Israeli ground assault on Rafah would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new dimension,” said Turk.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday the Israeli army would launch a ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip - where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge from the war.

The war began after the October 7 attack by Hamas fighters, which killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

The Palestinian militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed more than 30,000 people in under five months, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Aid agencies warn of a looming famine in the north of the densely populated, besieged territory.

Turk was presenting the latest report from his office in the Palestinian territories.

He repeated that the Hamas attacks on Israel in October were “shocking, profoundly traumatizing and totally unjustifiable”.

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“The killing of civilians, reports of torture and sexual violence inflicted by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, and the holding of hostages since that time, are appalling and entirely wrong,” he said.

“And so is the brutality of the Israeli response,” he added, calling it “carnage”.

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