RAFAH: Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nation’s top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said on Monday (Feb 26,) a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.

In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the UN’s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. It stopped short of ordering an end to its military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny Palestinian enclave. Israel vehemently denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting a war in self-defence.

One month later and nearly five months into the war, preparations are underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have flooded in search of safety.

Early on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones. It gave no further details.

In Rafah, dense tent camps have sprouted to house the displaced, has sparked global concern and Israel’s allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against Hamas.

PALESTINIAN PM RESIGNING

Also on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he was submitting his government’s resignation. The move, which still must be accepted by President Mahmoud Abbas, could open the door to US-backed reforms in the Palestinian Authority, which the US wants to rule postwar Gaza but in a revitalized shape.

In its ruling last month, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to follow six provisional measures including taking “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.

Under the orders, Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month. While Monday marked a month since the court’s orders were issued, it was not immediately clear whether Israel had handed in such a report. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

“BLOCKING LIFESAVING AID”

Human Rights Watch said Israel was not adhering to the court’s order on aid provision, citing a 30 per cent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling. It said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries because of increasing chaos in the isolated part of the territory.

“The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

Echoing Human Rights Watch, the Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of over 70 humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and the West Bank, said aid deliveries have slowed since the court’s ruling, with almost no aid reaching areas in Gaza north of Rafah.

Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organizations operating inside Gaza, saying hundreds of trucks filled with aid sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing. The UN says it can’t always reach the trucks at the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.

Netanyahu’s office also said on Monday the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would “prevent the cases of looting”. It did not disclose further details.

UN WANTS ISRAEL TO OPEN MORE CROSSINGS

The war, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, has unleashed unimaginable devastation in Gaza.

Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the coordination process.

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