EU Diplomat Accuses Israel of Ignoring ICJ Order on Rafah Operations

By Yoni Weiss

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell accused Israel of ignoring the International Court of Justice’s order by continuing military activity in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

At a meeting with EU foreign ministers Monday, Borrell demanded that Israel implement the ruling by withdrawing its troops from Rafah and ending all military operations in the city, stating that the EU would examine how to ensure the ruling is implemented.

In its ruling on Friday, the ICJ ordered that 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 wording of the order is ambiguous. While Borrell interprets it as mandating that Israel end all military activity in Rafah, this interpretation is disputed by legal scholars, including four judges on the court, who state that the order is limited in what it prohibits Israel from doing in Rafah.

ICJ Vice President Julia Sebutinde of Uganda wrote on Friday, “This measure does not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah. Instead, it only partially restricts Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the genocide convention.”

Sebutinde cautioned against misunderstanding the court’s order as “mandating a unilateral ceasefire in Rafah” and “restricting Israel’s ability to pursue its legitimate military objectives, while leaving its enemies, including Hamas, free to attack without Israel being able to respond.”

Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak, who has represented Israel at the ICJ, wrote, “This measure requires Israel to halt its military offensive in the Rafah Governorate only in so far as is necessary to comply with Israel’s obligations under the genocide convention.”

Barak added, “Israel is not prevented from carrying out its military operation in the Rafah Governorate as long as it fulfills its obligations under the genocide convention. As a result, the measure is a qualified one, which preserves Israel’s right to prevent and repel threats and attacks by Hamas, defend itself and its citizens, and free the hostages.”

The Israeli government has interpreted the ICJ order in this manner, allowing the military operation in Rafah to continue while complying with the order.

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