Top world court orders Israel to ensure urgent aid reaches Gazans


The world's top court has ordered Israel to ensure more food and urgent humanitarian assistance reaches Gazans, warning famine is already setting in after nearly six months of war.

The International Court of Justice's order on Thursday comes after the United Nations has repeatedly said the besieged territory was on the brink of "man-made famine" and blamed Israel's restrictions on aid for causing "horrifying" levels of hunger and deprivation.

"Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, but... famine is setting in," the Hague-based U.N. court said.

It told Israel to "take all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay" the supply "of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance."

After Hamas's October 7 attacks, Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza, blocking food, water and medicine, before eventually allowing some deliveries to resume.

But humanitarian groups say the occasional aid trucks allowed in are still far from sufficient, while the UN human rights chief has said Israeli restrictions may amount to using starvation as a weapon of war.

Gazans' desperation became starkly clear this week, after people rushing for food drowned and were trampled to death when parachuted aid parcels fell into the sea.

"There's nowhere else in the world where so many people face imminent famine," the World Food Programme's Palestine director Matthew Hollingworth said Thursday.

With clean water also scarce, Gazans say they face long walks to try their luck at tanks that may not have anything left.

"We have to queue for everything," said Maram Abu Amra. "We walk for an hour in total. Sometimes, we return empty-handed, without water."

- Fighting around Gaza hospitals -

Heavy fighting and sustained bombardments have continued to rock the territory despite the U.N. Security Council's adoption of a resolution earlier this week calling for an "immediate ceasefire".

"Dozens" were killed overnight, including 12 in a home in southern city Rafah, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said Friday.

The war has turned much of the territory into a wasteland and shattered the health system.

The Israeli military has conducted sieges on three major hospitals, accusing Hamas and Islamic Jihad of hiding inside and using patients, medical staff and displaced people for cover -- charges the Palestinian militant groups have denied.

Israel said its soldiers near the Al-Amal Hospital in Gaza's main southern city of Khan Younis carried out "targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure ... and are eliminating dozens of terrorists using precise fire in close-quarters combat and with air support."

They had also "apprehended dozens of terrorists in the area who were transferred for interrogations," the army added.

Israeli tanks and armored vehicles have also massed around another Khan Yunis health facility, the Nasser Hospital, but have not yet staged a full-scale raid, the Gaza health ministry said.

Fighting has also rocked the Gaza City district around Al-Shifa Hospital, the territory's biggest, where the army says it has killed about 200 militants since early last week.

Palestinian Abed Radwan, 63, said he had to flee when "Israeli forces stormed all buildings and homes in the Al-Rimal area, arrested several people and forced the rest to walk south."

"I walked with them," he said. "I saw many decomposing bodies in the streets and several houses flattened. They left nothing intact, they destroyed everything."

The war began with Hamas' October 7 attack that allegedly resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel says about 130 captives remain in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,552 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry.

- Regional impacts -

Since the start of the war, Israel has also exchanged near-daily fire with Hamas ally Hezbollah, an escalation that has sparked fears of a wider, regional conflict.

On Friday before dawn, an Israeli strike near the international airport in Syria's Aleppo killed at least 36 soldiers, according to a UK-based war monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was targeting "rockets depots belonging to Lebanese group Hezbollah".

Pushing to staunch any broader spillover, mediators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have tried to secure a truce, but those talks appear deadlocked for now.

Washington, Israel's main backer, angered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration this week by abstaining from a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution calling for an "immediate ceasefire".

Afterwards, Israel cancelled a meeting to discuss U.S. concerns over its possible operation in Rafah, before later backtracking and requesting a rescheduling.

U.S. officials say they want to present Israel with an alternative plan for Rafah, focused on striking Hamas targets while limiting civilian casualties in a city where 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Washington has also raised the issue of how Gaza will be ruled after the war and suggested a future role for the Palestinian Authority, the body that exercises limited powers in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

On Thursday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas approved the new government of prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.

Mustafa said his cabinet "will work on formulating visions to reunify the institutions, including assuming responsibility for Gaza".

Hamas took over from Abbas's government in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

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