World reacts to ICJ’s order for Israel to stop Rafah offensive

Many figures around the world welcome the ruling while Israeli officials express anger and defiance.

Presiding Judge Nawaf Salam reads the ruling of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands [Peter Dejong/AP Photo]

The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its military assault on Rafah, describing the humanitarian situation in the southern Gaza city, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are sheltering, as “disastrous”.

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’s (ICJ’s) president, Nawaf Salam, said.

The emergency measures were ordered on the request of South Africa as part of its genocide case against Israel.

The ICJ has ordered Israel to report back to the court within a month about its progress in applying measures ordered by the institution. It has also ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Egypt for humanitarian assistance.

Here are some reactions from leaders and organisations across the world:

Palestinian Authority spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh

“The presidency welcomes the decision issued by the International Court of Justice, which represents an international consensus on the demand to stop the all-out war on Gaza,” Rudeineh said.

Hamas official Basam Naim

Naim said Hamas welcomed the decision by the World Court “that calls on the Zionist occupation forces to end its military aggression on Rafah”.

He added that the group also welcomes the court’s request to allow investigators into the Gaza Strip to probe “acts of genocide against the Palestinian people and Hamas pledges to cooperate with investigation committees”.

Naim said Hamas also calls on the UN Security Council to immediately implement the ICJ’s demands.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich

Shortly after the ICJ ruling, Smotrich wrote on the social media platform X: “Those who demand that the State of Israel stop the war, demand that it decree itself to cease to exist. We will not agree to that.”

“We continue to fight for ourselves and for the entire free world. History will judge who today stood by the Nazis of Hamas and ISIS [ISIL],” he added.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid

“The fact that the court in The Hague did not make the connection in its ruling between the cessation of fighting in Rafah and the return of the hostages and Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism is a moral collapse and a moral disaster,” Lapid said.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz

Gantz said Israel “set out on a just and necessary campaign following the brutal massacre of its citizens, abhorrent sexual violence perpetrated against its women, kidnapping of its children and rockets fired at its cities”.

“The State of Israel is committed to continue fighting to return its hostages and promise the security of its citizens – wherever and whenever necessary – including in Rafah,” he added.

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar

“Judges of the High Court in The Hague are invited to come to Gaza and convince Hamas to return our abductees home,” Zohar said on X.

“Until this happens, it is clear that there is no possibility of stopping the fighting in Rafah.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

“South Africa welcomes the order handed down by the International Court of Justice today. We are gravely concerned that Israel has restricted necessary levels of aid from entering Gaza and has systematically targeted aid and aid infrastructure within Gaza.

“This case is thus focused on the ordinary Palestinians in Gaza who are now facing their seventh month of suffering through collective punishment for something for which they have no individual responsibility.

“South Africa remains concerned that the United Nations Security Council has so far not succeeded in stopping the human suffering.”

South African official Zane Dangor

Dangor said the court’s ruling “is groundbreaking”.

“This is de facto calling for a ceasefire. It is ordering the major party in this conflict to end its belligerent action against the people of Palestine,” he said.

“This order like the others … are binding, and Israel has to adhere to them.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell

Borrell said the EU would have to state its position on the ICJ’s ruling.

“We will have to choose between our support to international institutions of the rule of law or our support to Israel,” he said.

Egyptian foreign ministry

“Egypt calls on Israel to comply with its legal obligations within the framework of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and international humanitarian law, and to implement all interim measures issued by the ICJ, which are considered legally binding and enforceable, as they are issued by the highest international judicial body.

“Egypt stresses that Israel bears full legal responsibility for the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip as the occupying power, calling on Israel to stop its systematic policies against the Palestinian people of targeting, starvation and siege in violation of all provisions of international law and international humanitarian law.”

United States senator Lindsay Graham

“As far as I’m concerned, the ICJ can go to hell. It is long past time to stand up to these so-called international justice organizations associated with the UN. Their anti-Israel bias is overwhelming.

“The ICJ’s ruling that Israel should stop operations that are necessary to destroy four battalions of Hamas killers and terrorists – who use Palestinians as human shields – is ridiculous.

“This will and should be ignored by Israel.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib

In a post on X, Lahbib said Belgium calls for immediate implementation of the court decision.

“The violence and human suffering in Gaza must stop. We call for a ceasefire, the release of the hostages and negotiations for two states,” she said.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi

Safadi said the ICJ had again exposed war crimes in Gaza.

“And once again, the Israeli Govt reacts with disdain to Int’l law, refusing to heed the Court’s orders. The SC [Security Council] must shoulder its responsibility, put an end to Israel’s impunity & to double standards in enforcing Int’l law,” he said in a statement on X.

Saudi Arabian foreign ministry:

“Saudi Arabia welcomes the decision issued by the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to immediately stop the military offensive or any other actions in Rafah, in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Turkish foreign ministry:

“We welcome the interim decision … ordering Israel to halt its attacks on Rafah in Gaza and immediately open the Rafah border gate to humanitarian aid.

“No country in the world is above the law. We expect all decisions taken by the Court to be quickly implemented by Israel. To ensure this, we invite the UN Security Council to do its part.”

War crimes prosecutor Reed Brody

Brody said the ICJ has stepped up to address the reality on the ground in the Gaza Strip.

“I’m really impressed, first of all by South Africa’s tenacity and perseverance and coming back to the court, and the court has responded almost unanimously,” he told Al Jazeera.

Brody noted that South Africa has been asking since the start of the war on Gaza for an order for Israel to stop its military offensive but the court had said it could not make such a move because Hamas and the Palestinian side were not present on the stand.

“But that’s what they have finally chosen to do here, and it’s a testament to this court and what it does. Together with the decision by the ICC prosecutor [to recommend arrest warrants against top Israeli officials], it is a real one-two legal punch,” he added.

Human Rights Watch

The international rights organisation said the ICJ rulings show how bad things are in Gaza.

“The International Court of Justice’s order underlines the gravity of the situation facing Palestinians in Gaza,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate director of the group’s International Justice Program.

“This decision opens up the possibility for relief, but only if governments use their leverage to press Israel to urgently enforce the court’s measures.”

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

The US-based civil rights group “applauded” the rulings by the ICJ.

“While the [US President Joe] Biden administration stands alone in continuing to offer full support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the international community is increasingly pushing back against the slaughter, forced starvation and ethnic cleansing Israel’s far-right government is inflicting on the Palestinian people,” CAIR said in a statement.

“Israel is clearly attempting to make Gaza uninhabitable. It must be stopped from completing this monstrous goal. President Biden must honor this important ruling by immediately ending all military assistance to Israel’s genocide.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Bathe Eide

“I expect Israel to carry out the measures that have been ordered. Respect for the court and its functions, including the authority to order interim measures, is essential to strengthening international law and the international legal order.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies