THE HAGUE - The international court of justice is expected to issue a new ruling on Israel’s conduct of its war in Gaza at 3pm (1400 BST) on Friday, as the US expressed concern over Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation among countries that have traditionally supported it.

Amid speculation that the ICJ could order a halt to Israel’s offensive, a second top global court – the international criminal court – identified the three judges who will hear a request for arrest warrants against Hamas leaders, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its defence minister, Yoav Gallant.

Last week South Africa asked the ICJ, which is located in The Hague and also known as the world court, to order a halt to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and in Rafah in particular, saying this was necessary to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.

ICJ decisions have in the past been ignored, as the top UN legal body has no way to enforce its decisions, but they carry international weight. A ruling against Israel could add to its political isolation after a series of setbacks this week.

Israel suggested it would defy any order to stop fighting.

“No power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza,” a spokesperson, Avi Hyman, told reporters on Thursday.

The latest legal moves come as Israeli media reported that Israel Defense Forces had concluded that troops had “breached regulations” when they killed a UN staff member and wounded a second one last week in Gaza when a marked UN vehicle was shelled and hit with a drone-dropped grenade.

Israel has faced mounting problems on the international stage in recent days. On Wednesday, after Ireland, Norway and Spain said they would recognise Palestinian statehood, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, expressed concern over Israel’s isolation.

“As a country that stands strong in defence of Israel in international forums like the United Nations, we certainly have seen a growing chorus of voices, including voices that had previously been in support of Israel, drift in another direction.

“That is of concern to us because we do not believe that that contributes to Israel’s long-term security or vitality … So that’s something we have discussed with the Israeli government.

“President Biden … has been on the record supporting a two-state solution. He has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition.”

Nevertheless, Sullivan criticised Israel’s decision to respond to the recognition announcement by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority, saying: “I think it’s wrong on a strategic basis because withholding funds destabilises the West Bank. It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people, which is in Israel’s interests. And I think it’s wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people.”

Sullivan expanded on comments to the Senate foreign relations committee by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday in which he said the administration was ready to work with Congress on enacting potential penalties against the ICC in response to its attempt to seek Netanyahu’s arrest.

“We’re in consultations on a bipartisan, bicameral basis with [Capitol] Hill on all of the options for how to respond to what the ICC has just done. We haven’t made any determinations,” Sullivan said.

Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives have publicly mooted legislation against the ICC, of which the US is not a member, although it has supported some of its previous attempts at mounting prosecutions, notably against the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, over the invasion of Ukraine.

Israel launched devastating airstrikes on Gaza early on Thursday while also saying it was ready to resume stalled talks on a truce and hostage release deal with Hamas to pause the war raging since 7 October.

The Gaza Strip’s civil defence agency said two predawn airstrikes had killed 26 people, including 15 children, in Gaza City alone.

Agency spokesperson Mahmud Bassal said one strike hit a family house, killing 16 people, in Al-Daraj, and another killed 10 people inside a mosque compound.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Fierce street battles also raged in Jabaliya and Rafah in Gaza, where the armed wings of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad said they had fired mortar barrages at Israeli troops.

About 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed and 250 kidnapped when Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007, staged a surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October last year. About 36,000 Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed in Israel’s military response.

 

 

 

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