Israel dismisses International Court Order as Gaza death toll rises!

A Palestinian family in Gaza grief-stricken at the loss of a child

In Gaza, the death toll among Palestinians has risen sharply since the International Court of Justice’s provisional order for Israel to cease violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The court’s order highlighted acts of genocide including killings and inflicting serious physical or mental harm on Palestinians in the area, an order which Israel has not acknowledged.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reported that in the 48 hours following the World Court’s interim ruling, the Israeli army was responsible for the deaths of 373 Palestinians, 345 of whom were civilians. The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza noted that from the afternoons of 29 and 30 January, the death count was 114, bringing the total fatalities in the territory since 7 October to more than 26,750.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, two separate strikes on residential buildings in Gaza City on Monday resulted in the deaths of 45 Palestinians. Additionally, Israel mandated the evacuation of several neighbourhoods in western Gaza City, affecting a significant number of residents.

In its recent interim ruling, the International Court of Justice demanded Israel ‘take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.’ However, instead of implementing these measures, Israel’s allies announced the freezing of their financial support to UNRWA, the main humanitarian assistance provider in the territory.

A UN spokesperson commented that the impact of these cuts will be felt within weeks. They also stated that the UN had not received any written reports from Israel regarding the allegations that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the 7 October attacks led by Hamas.

The heads of various UN agencies and international humanitarian organisations made a plea on Tuesday for the restoration of funding to UNRWA. They warned, ‘Withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza,’ with severe humanitarian and human rights consequences across the occupied Palestinian territory and region.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, stated on Tuesday that the organisation had managed to deliver essential medical supplies to Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, which had been isolated amid heavy fighting.

He also reported: ‘A food shipment intended for the hospital was mobbed on Tuesday by hungry crowds due to delays near an Israeli checkpoint and never reached the facility.’

‘The hospital is sheltering thousands of displaced people as well as medics and patients,’ he added.

Currently, 400 patients are being treated at the facility. Ghebreyesus remarked, ‘Once the most important referral hospital in southern Gaza,’ Nasser has gone from partially to minimally functional within a week, reflecting ‘the unwarranted and ongoing dismantling of the health system’ in Gaza.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British Palestinian surgeon working in Gaza during the initial weeks of the genocide, commented that Israel’s systematic attacks on hospitals aim to make Gaza uninhabitable, coercing its population to leave. He noted: ‘The purpose of killing medical professionals in Gaza is to eliminate an entire generation of doctors.’

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel reported on Tuesday that they have not received any response from Israeli officials after asking them to locate nearly two dozen physicians and medical workers arrested in Gaza.

The organisation highlighted: ‘More than 1,000 people in Gaza have been arrested during Israel’s ground operations, including dozens of healthcare workers.’ They added: ‘The military’s seizure of individuals without informing their families or representatives of their circumstances, location, or grounds for arrest amounts to forced disappearance.’

The group also stated: ‘Arresting and forcibly disappearing medical personnel not only severely violates international law but also harms Gaza’s healthcare system, which is on the brink of complete collapse.’

The Palestine Red Crescent Society reported on Tuesday that they had lost contact with an ambulance team that attempted to rescue a 6-year-old girl named Hind Hamadeh after six members of her family were shot and killed by Israeli troops in Khan Younis. In a recorded call, Layan, Hind’s older sister, informed the Red Crescent that their car was surrounded and being fired upon by tanks. She said, ‘they are shooting us’, before gunfire and screams were heard. Hind remained on the phone with the Red Crescent for more than three hours after everyone else in the car had been shot. Her fate is currently unknown.

Ceasefire talks were underway in Paris on Tuesday with the participation of CIA director William Burns, the prime minister of Qatar, and the heads of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and Egyptian intelligence. The Biden administration stated that it did not want a wider regional escalation or war with Iran after three US service members were killed and 34 injured in a drone strike at a military base in Jordan near the border with Syria on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had decided on how to retaliate but did not elaborate on what that would entail. Washington blamed Kataib Hizballah, an Iraqi militia, for the deadly strike. The prime minister of Qatar said one day earlier that he hoped any US response wouldn’t derail negotiations to secure a second prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel after a seven-day truce collapsed in late November.

The Israeli military announced on Monday its continued focus on operations in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Tuesday that ‘large numbers of Palestinian men have been observed being detained by the Israeli military at a checkpoint’ in Khan Younis over the past week.

Many of them were ‘stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and taken away’. The Palestine Red Crescent Society stated that one person was killed and nine others were injured when shrapnel fell on Al-Amal hospital and the humanitarian group’s adjacent headquarters in Khan Younis on Tuesday. The surgical ward of the hospital ceased operations on Monday after running out of oxygen supplies.

Intense fighting in the vicinity and the siege on its facilities have hindered the movement of Red Crescent ambulances and emergency medical teams in Khan Younis, preventing them ‘from reaching the injured and transporting them to the hospital for necessary medical care’, as per UN OCHA. Hostilities in the north have escalated, causing more Palestinians to flee to the south, which has also been hit by recent Israeli air strikes.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Hamas forces are regrouping in northern Gaza ‘and rebuilding a system of governance’. A senior UN official stated that Rafah, near the Egyptian border, is ‘the last remaining place with any real civil order’ due to the maintained control of Hamas police.

In other parts of Gaza, aid convoys have been targeted, particularly in the central area, ‘which is controlled neither by Hamas nor Israeli forces’. The attacks on convoys have been attributed to powerful and well-armed families in central Gaza.

Sigrid Kaag, the UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, briefed diplomats in a closed session of the Security Council on Tuesday. She called for the opening of more crossings and the resumption of commercial activities in Gaza, where about 300,000 civilians in the north are facing increasingly dire conditions. Kaag also highlighted the need for protection equipment and armoured vehicles for UN personnel in Gaza and underscored the importance of UNRWA.

Palestinians interred approximately 100 bodies in a mass grave in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Tuesday. These remains, transferred via Kerem Shalom crossing by Israel, included individuals killed during Israel’s military offensive ‘and corpses that had been dug up as Israeli forces pushed through Gaza’. Meanwhile, Palestinians discovered dozens of executed individuals in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, ‘found beneath debris and waste’. Ramy Abdu, director of Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, reported that many of these bodies were wrapped in shrouds with Hebrew-language ID tags.