ICJ declines new protections for Rafah despite ‘perilous situation’ in city

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The International Court of Justice on Friday declined South Africa’s request to introduce additional safeguards for Palestinians ahead of Israel’s planned offensive in the southern city of Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians are seeking refuge from Israeli bombardment.

In its response to a Feb. 12 request from South Africa, the ICJ said the “perilous situation” in Rafah required Israel to abide by its previous ruling last month, which included taking “all measures within its power” to prevent the crime of genocide and to allow more aid into Gaza.

South Africa is pursuing a case against Israel in the ICJ, alleging it is committing and failing to prevent genocide in Gaza, accusations that Israel denies. A verdict on the question of genocide could take years.

The situation in Rafah is becoming increasingly dire, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its most recent update, with people “desperate, hungry, and terrified” ahead of the expected attack. OCHA said that the number of aid trucks allowed to enter the Gaza Strip had declined over the past week, with only 20 entering on Thursday, a sharp decline from the average of 133 per day from Feb. 2 to Feb. 8.

The United States and other nations — including Israel’s most vital allies — have publicly opposed the military campaign in Rafah, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant about it.

President Biden told Netanyahu last week that the assault should not proceed without a “credible and executable plan” to protect civilians in Rafah. On Friday, Biden said he had pushed the Israeli leader over recent days to accept a temporary cease-fire in Gaza to allow the release of the remaining hostages.

Israel, Egypt deny Gaza evacuation plan; U.N. wants access to hospital

Here’s what else to know

  • Israel’s multiday raid on Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis continued Friday, leaving the complex without electricity or water for several hours. Five patients in intensive care died from lack of oxygen as respirators shut down, the Gaza Health Ministry said. The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the raid was to recover the bodies of hostages. It later said that weapons had been found. The World Health Organization called the operation “deeply alarming.”
  • A U.N. relief worker is said to have appeared on video removing an Israeli man’s body after he was shot at Kibbutz Beeri on Oct. 7, according to a Post analysis of information released by Israeli authorities.
  • Israel has expanded its allegations against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, asserting there are “significant indications” that more than 30 UNRWA workers were involved on Oct. 7. UNRWA spokesman Jonathan Fowler said Israel did not detect that attack in advance, “implying that all involved … participated illicitly in ways that UNRWA also would have been unable to detect.”
  • Egyptian and Israeli officials denied speculation that Palestinian refugees would be pushed out of Rafah and into Egypt, after satellite imagery obtained by The Washington Post showed Egypt clearing and building a wall around a plot of land along its border with Gaza. “The State of Israel has no intention of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt,” Israel’s defense minister said.
  • Two people were killed and four wounded in a shooting at a bus stop in central Israel on Friday. The shooter was killed by an armed civilian during the attack. A motivation has not been announced, but Israeli politicians described the violence as a “terror attack.”
  • At least 28,775 people have been killed and 68,552 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel estimates about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says at least 235 of its troops have been killed since its offensive in Gaza began.

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