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U.N. top court orders Israel to open more land crossings for aid into Gaza

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top United Nations court on Thursday ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the enclave.

The International Court of Justice issued two new so-called provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas. Israel denies it is committing genocide. It says its military campaign is self defense and aimed at Hamas, not the Palestinian people.

Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a cease-fire. Israel urged the court not to issue new orders.

In its legally binding order, the court told Israel to take measures “without delay” to ensure “the unhindered provision” of basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, including by preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The court told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border terrorist attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others were taken hostage. Israel responded with a campaign of airstrikes and a ground offensive that have left over 32,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the order.

In a written response earlier this month to South Africa’s request for more measures, Israel said the claims by South Africa were “wholly unfounded,” “morally repugnant” and “an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court itself.”

After initially sealing Gaza’s borders in the early days of the war, Israel began to permit entry of humanitarian supplies. It says it places no restrictions on the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza and accuses the United Nations of failing to properly organize the deliveries.

Israel has been working with international partners on a plan to soon begin deliveries of aid by sea.

Israel has repeatedly feuded with the United Nations, particularly UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and main provider of aid in Gaza. Israel accuses the agency of tolerating and even cooperating with Hamas — a charge UNRWA denies.

On Tuesday, the army said it inspected 258 aid trucks, but only 116 were distributed within Gaza by the U.N.

COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, has also run pilot programs to inspect the humanitarian aid at Israel’s main checkpoints in the south and then use land crossings in central Gaza to try to bring aid to the northern part of the Strip. The agency had no immediate comment on the ICJ ruling.

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