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Israel continues Rafah operation as hostage bodies are recovered

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Israel appears to be forging ahead with its offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite a new ruling from the UN’s top court to halt the assault, which it said is worsening an already “disastrous” humanitarian crisis.

About 900,000 people have fled Rafah, previously the shelter of last resort for 85% of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population, since the Israeli ground operation in the area began on 6 May. At the same time, deliveries of humanitarian supplies and fuel to the Palestinian territory have slowed to a trickle, with the two main aid crossings – Rafah, on the border with Egypt, and nearby Kerem Shalom, a goods crossing linking Gaza with Israel – effectively blocked by the fighting.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), which arbitrates disputes between nations, made its third intervention in the conflict so far, ordering Israel to immediately stop its Rafah operation. The court president Nawaf Salam said when announcing the 13-2 majority ruling, that Israel is obliged under the UN’s genocide convention not to inflict “conditions of life that would bring about [the Palestinian people’s] physical destruction in whole or in part”.

But Israeli airstrikes on the south and eastern edges of Rafah appeared to escalate even as the ICJ delivered its decision, residents and medics said, as Israeli ground troops edge closer to the overcrowded city centre. Another 30 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the last 24 hours, Palestinian medics reported on Saturday; battles are also ongoing in northern and central parts of the Strip such as Jabalia and Zeitoun, where forces belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas have regrouped.


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