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Order of 26 January 2024 | INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

  1. The Court further considers that Israel must take 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.

This was part of the interim ruling about South Africa's genocide petition. The purpose of this question is not to ask about anything genocide related. Or ceasefires.

Rather, what has been the response of Israel, and its Western backers, to that reminder, from the ICJ, of their obligations under the international laws of conflict? Again, not asking about others claims and complaints different parties have made with regards to Israel, just this item in the ruling.

This isn't a new concern. Western governments have, on several occasions indicated their concern about the food situation in Gaza.
CNN Oct 30th

President Joe Biden’s administration this weekend pressured Israel to allow more aid into Gaza and to restore internet connectivity to the enclave, a concerted effort to ease a growing humanitarian crisis that comes amid fears of a widening regional war.

Lack of access to food and necessities is a clear violation of the Geneva conventions.

(b) if not as sustenance, then in direct support of military action, provided, however, that in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which may be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement.

Furthermore have the Israeli or Western governments indicated how the suspension of UNRWA funding is likely to impact the obligation to keep Gaza civilians supplied?


And, no, concerning an objection made in a now deleted comment, this wasn't "an obscure paragraph in a huge ruling". The, Western, press reported on this very aspect the very day the ruling was issued, often quoting that "buried paragraph" in its entirety.

BBC

And there was a call for "immediate and effective measures" to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

Forbes

The ICJ further indicated that “Israel must take 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”

....CTV ....RadioFreeEuropeRadioLiberty ....Foreign Affairs ....Le Monde ....Times of Israel ....The Hill...fox41yakima

The, Western, press coverage generally consisted of roughly: "Israel avoided the genocide charge and it didn't get ordered to cease fire. But, as a balance, it did get asked to respect the conventions on providing essential necessities".

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  • I just want to point out that neither Israel nor the US are member states to the ICC, and thus do not fall under jurisdiction of the ICJ. In that respect, there is no obligation for either party to respect the ICJ's orders or any "international laws" that are represented by them. Interestingly, Palestine is a member to the ICC as of 2021.
    – David S
    Feb 5 at 22:06
  • Israel's position is that it is operating within international law in the way it manges the war against Hamas who are using civilizians as human shields. Therefore the ruling changes nothing nothing on the ground and there is no need for specific action in response.
    – deep64blue
    Apr 9 at 6:08

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Not sure what you expect here. The US State Department, for example, has said little about the ICJ hearings, aside from a 3-para release on Jan 10, which was only tagged with South Africa, by the way, and can be summed up to "Allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded." There's also been a bit of coverage on the day before the ICJ interim decision was due, mostly due to heckling by some journalists [there was a lot back and forth], but I could find nothing on the actual decision on the State Department's site. Although it still doesn't seem to appear as such on their own web site, there was apparently a State Department statement on Jan 26, quoted by the press saying among other things:

In a statement, the State Department said, "We have consistently made clear that Israel must take all possible steps to minimize civilian harm, increase the flow of humanitarian assistance, and address dehumanizing rhetoric."

The statement said it noted that "the court did not make a finding about genocide or call for a cease-fire in its ruling and that it called for the unconditional, immediate release of all hostages being held by Hamas."

They said a bit more about the UNRWA affair (demanding "complete accountability") on Jan 26, but this latter piece doesn't mention the ICJ. Blinken said something slightly more interesting, namely that

UNRWA plays an “indispensable” role in providing assistance to civilians in Gaza and that “no one else can play the role that UNRWA has been playing, certainly not in the near term.”

Which suggests that the current US administration doesn't foresee an outright end of aid through UNRWA, for now.


Germany's FM did react to the actual ICJ interim ruling on Jan 26, and there's even a mention of aid in that reaction:

Israel must adhere to the Court’s order. [...] Hamas, too, is bound by international humanitarian law and must finally release all the hostages.

We will do everything in our power to support this, as well as the order to Israel to take immediate measures to enable the provision of more humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

But their next-day statement on UNRWA doesn't mention the ICJ, rather predictably.

Germany, in agreement with other donor countries, will temporarily not approve any further funding for UNRWA in Gaza until the matter is resolved – there are in any case no new funding decisions pending.

OTOH it suggests that Germany foresees alternative channels for aid:

Humanitarian assistance will continue. Just a few days ago, we increased our funding for the International Committee of the Red Cross and for UNICEF by 7 million euro.


As for Netanyahu's videotaped response to the ICJ decision; it is here. One of the sentences says they will continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance. As for UNRWA, I'm sure the Israeli government officials said things on more than one occasion, but interestingly:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not support the immediate discontinuation of UNRWA, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday as a host of Western countries moved to suspend funding for the UN relief agency for Palestinians amid allegations that roughly a dozen of its employees took part in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and hundreds more are either operatives or have close ties with members.

“If UNRWA ceases operating on the ground, this could cause a humanitarian catastrophe that would force Israel to halt its fighting against Hamas,” the senior Israeli official said, briefing The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity. “This would not be in Israel’s interest and it would not be in the interest of Israel’s allies either.” [...]

“We believe that in the long-term, UNRWA cannot be part of the solution and cannot be part of the “day after” Hamas,” the senior official added.

“Having said all of that, UNRWA is currently the international organization that plays the most dominant role in the entry and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and because there currently is no alternative, Israel is not pushing to shut down UNWRA,” the official explained.

I'm not sure if this the most authoritative take, "unnamed official", and all that.

Anyhow, the same ToI piece writes that State Department spokesman Miller said something similar to Blinken's statement that I quoted earlier:

Nonetheless, Miller reiterated that the US still supports UNRWA’s “critical” work providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

“There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and medicine to at the scale that UNRWA does,” he stressed, adding that this is why the US wants the UN to thoroughly and speedily conduct its investigation so that such conduct by agency employees can never happen again and so it can [be] serving Palestinians in Gaza.

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