Israel bracing for International Court of Justice’s decision as it pushes deeper into Gaza

Gaza health officials and Hamas media says 35 Palestinians were killed across Strip on Thursday

Israel is bracing itself for Friday’s decision by the International Court of Justice on the request for emergency measures submitted by South Africa calling for Israel to halt its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israel is concerned that the judges in The Hague will respond positively to South Africa’s request, potentially exposing it to international sanctions. Such a development would cap a disastrous diplomatic week for Israel, following on from the recommendation by International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Kahn for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders and the decision by Ireland and other EU states to recognise a Palestinian state.

“No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza,” government spokesman, Avi Hyman said.

Israeli troops have reached the centre of Rafah, where fierce fighting continues, and have taken control of most of the strategically important border road with Egypt after earlier this month seizing the Rafah crossing.

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Hamas has been holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why our forces are manoeuvring in Rafah,” said Israel army spokesman Daniel Hagari in a statement on Thursday. “We’re doing this in a targeted and precise way.”

Israel claims that one million residents have already fled Rafah to avoid the fighting, leaving between 300,000-400,000 civilians in the area. According to expert analysis of satellite image of the area a few days ago, almost 40 per cent of buildings in Rafah have been destroyed or damaged.

The Rafah crossing has been closed since the Israeli attack on Rafah and deliveries from the new US-funded floating pier were also disrupted after aid supplies were seized from lorries by local residents. “Humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse,” said Abeer Etefa, a spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Programme, warning that famine-like conditions could develop if food and other supplies did not resume “in massive quantities”.

Clashes also took place in Jabalya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 35,800 Palestinians have been killed since the war began on October 7th last. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on that day. It believes 128 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are alive.

An Israeli army investigation has determined that soldiers fired at a United Nations vehicle in the Rafah area last Monday, resulting in the death of a UN worker, an Indian national.

The investigation concluded that the vehicle was driving on a road where travel was prohibited without prior co-ordination with the army.

According to the military investigation, the UN vehicle was driving from the UN’s offices towards the Rafah crossing. It was marked with the letters UN on its roof, but it had no identifying markings on its sides or in places that could be seen from the ground.

A UN expert called on Israel on Thursday to investigate multiple allegations of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinian detainees in the wake of the October 7th attack by Hamas.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said she had received allegations of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel being beaten and kept in cells blindfolded and handcuffed for long periods. She expressed concern that a permissive environment for further abusive treatment of Palestinians had developed.

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