ICJ orders Israel to 'immediately halt' offensive in Rafah

The top United Nations court Friday ordered Israel to halt military operations in Rafah, a landmark ruling likely to increase mounting international pressure on Israel more than seven months into the Gaza war.

Israel must "immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," the International Court of Justice said.

It also ordered Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing into Gaza for the "unhindered" provision of humanitarian aid.

I believe it's a much stronger, in terms of wording, set of provisional measures, very clear call for a cessation," Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told public broadcaster SABC.

Court then called for the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas in its Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

"The court finds it deeply troubling that many of these hostages remain in captivity and reiterates its call for their immediate and unconditional release," the ICJ said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he would consult senior ministers Friday by phone after the U.N.'s top court order.

ICJ rulings are legally binding but the court has no concrete means to enforce them. For example, it ordered Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine, to no avail.

Israel had argued before the court that an order to stop military activity would give free rein to Hamas extremists and prevent its army from rescuing hostages taken in the group's brutal Oct. 7 attack.

The ICJ ruling comes hot on the heels of another highly charged decision Monday by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for top...

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