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ICJ says 'famine is setting in' as it orders Israel to free up aid in Gaza

The ruling orders Israel to allow aid trucks loaded with food and supplies to enter Gaza unhindered "without delay."

Around 1.1 million people are projected to face catastrophic food insecurity in Gaza
Around 1.1 million people are projected to face catastrophic food insecurity in Gaza (AN/PRCS)

The U.N.'s top court ordered Israel to do everything possible to prevent more civilian loss of life by improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice issued two provisional measures on Thursday in South Africa's case alleging Israeli military forces have committed genocide in Gaza since the Oct. 7 surprise attacks by Hamas.

The Hague-based court's legally binding ruling orders Israel to ensure it does not violate the Genocide Convention and allow aid trucks to enter Gaza unhindered and "without delay" so citizens can get food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

Israel is required to report back in a month on how it is complying with the order.

"The catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further, in particular in view of the prolonged and widespread deprivation of food and other basic necessities to which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected,” the court said.

“Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine," it added. "That famine is setting in."

For evidence, the court cited a report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs saying at least 31 people, including 27 children, have already died of malnutrition and dehydration.

Earlier in the week, U.N. special rapporteur Francesca Albanese reported to the U.N. Human Rights Council there are reasonable grounds to believe that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel inflicts "serious bodily or mental harm" and creates conditions calculated to bring about Palestinians' "physical destruction in whole or in part," while also taking other measures to "prevent birth within the group,” she said. "The genocide in Gaza is the most extreme stage of a long-standing settler colonial process of erasure of the native Palestinians."

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 

Israel promises 'new initiatives'

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said his administration was "very pleased and sad" in reaction to the court ruling.

"Sad because it just confirms that what the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, had ruled before was not heeded by Israel, and we needed to go back and argue another case or a continuing case," he said. "What is also pleasing is that more and more countries around the world are seeing the correctness of the step that we took."'

In January, ICJ approved provisional measures calling on Israel to do all it can to protect civilians and prevent genocide in Gaza.

The United Nations and other humanitarian groups fault Israel's wartime restrictions for the lack of aid reaching civilians. Israel, however, blames U.N. disorganization.

Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat said the

The nation "will continue to promote new initiatives, and to expand existing ones," said Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat, "in order to enable and facilitate the flow of aid to the Gaza Strip in a continuous and extensive manner, by land, air, and sea, together with U.N. bodies and other partners in the international community."

This story has been updated with additional details.