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U.N.'s top court calls for Israel to halt military offensive in southern Gaza city of Rafah

U.N. court calls on Israel to halt Rafah offensive
Top U.N. court orders Israel to halt military offensive in Rafah 02:17

The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and to take measures to ensure U.N. investigators have unimpeded access to Gaza to investigate allegations of genocide.

In a ruling read out on Friday, the court also called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas.

Despite the ruling, the International Court of Justice does not have any way to enforce it, meaning the decision is not expected result in an immediate cease-fire. Russia has so far ignored the ICJ's order to halt its invasion of Ukraine.

The cease-fire request was brought forward as part of South Africa's case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, as it attacked Hamas following that group's brutal assault on Israel last Oct. 7. Israel has vehemently denied the accusations of genocide.

Magistrates are seen at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as part of South Africa's request for a  Gaza cease-fire,  in The Hague, May 24, 2024. NICK GAMMON/AFP via Getty Images

While the case is likely to take years to conclude, South Africa sought the cease-fire orders to protect Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel's offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry and U.N. officials, and has caused a humanitarian crisis and a near-famine.  

In a joint statement Friday, Israel's Foreign Ministry and chief of staff for national security called the accusation of genocide "false, outrageous and disgusting" and said the country is taking steps to facilitate humanitarian aid while waging a "justified defensive war to eliminate the Hamas organization and free our hostages." 

Speaking to CBS' partner network BBC News, an Israeli government spokesperson said: "There is no power in the world that will push us to commit a public suicide, because that's what this is, to stop our war against Hamas."

The ruling adds to mounting international pressure on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza, nearly eight months into its war against Hamas.

A prosecutor in the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague in the Netherlands, has recently announced he is currently seeking an arrest warrant for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister and three Hamas leaders.

"No amount of pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent Israel from defending itself against those who seek our destruction," Netanyahu said in a statement reacting to the ICC's announcement.

Shortly after the ICJ's announcement, the CBS News team inside Gaza reported airstrikes hitting the Rafah area.

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