Israel continues military offensive in Rafah after ICJ order

The Israeli army was carrying out the operation in Rafah on Saturday, according to three Israeli officials, a day after the world's top court appeared to order Israel to “immediately” cease its military campaign in the southern city of Gaza, amid a growing international outcry over the offensive.

Officials did not say exactly in which part of the city his forces were striking and fighting. An official said the army continued to advance slowly, but warned that it was too early to conclude how Israel would respond to the court order because it takes time for a military ground operation to change course. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Palestinian media reported that an Israeli attack killed one person in central Rafah and that there were also clashes on the city's eastern outskirts. Attacks were also reported in other parts of the territory and the Israeli army confirmed that it also continued to operate in Jabaliya, in northern Gaza.

The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to suspend its military offensive and “any other actions” in Rafah that could destroy all or part of the Palestinian population. Some judges on the court said Israel could still conduct some military operations in Rafah under the terms of their decision.

The court has few effective means to enforce its order, but the ruling adds to a growing list of actions against Israel that have undermined its international standing.

In the aftermath of the ruling, the Israeli government had suggested it would continue the fight in Rafah, defying a growing group of international partners who believe Israel has gone too far. He said in a written response that his military “has not and will not take” actions that would lead to the destruction of the Palestinian population in Rafah – in effect saying the court's decision has no bearing on the Israeli offensive.

The Israeli offensive in Rafah has so far displaced more than 800,000 people, most of whom had already been displaced from other parts of Gaza and faced miserable conditions in their new camps. Meanwhile, the Israelis continued to bomb other areas of the enclave, with particularly intense fighting in Jabaliya, where Israel believes Hamas is trying to regroup.

At a news conference Friday after the decision, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the U.N. chief “confident” that Israel will “duly comply” with the court's order. The spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, then added that countries have “the responsibility to implement and respect” the Court's decisions.

The court's decision came as officials from Israel, the United States and Qatar – a mediator between Israel and Hamas – gathered in Paris to try to revive efforts to establish a ceasefire. Negotiations faltered earlier this month, largely because Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire while Israel wants to continue the war after a brief prisoner exchange.

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