THE HAGUE: Arab states urged international judges on Monday to rule the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories illegal and Turkiye described the occupation as “the real obstacle to peace” on the final day of hearings in a case examining its legal status.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been hearing arguments from more than 50 states following a request by the UN General Assembly in 2022 to issue a non-binding opinion on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation.

On the sixth and last day of hearings, Turkiye’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz told judges the occupation was the root cause of conflict in the region.

“The unfolding situation after October 7 proves once again that, without addressing the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there can be no peace in the region,” he said, describing the occupation of Palestinian territories as “the real obstacle to peace” and urging the judges to declare it illegal.

Ankara describes Tel Aviv’s act as ‘real obstacle to peace’

Israel, which is not taking part in the hearings, has said the court’s involvement could be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement, calling the questions posed to the court prejudiced.

Palestinian factions have also come under international pressure to end their own divisions over their response to Israel’s occupation, the war in Gaza and what political system might follow it.

Earlier on Monday, the Arab League’s secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the occupation as “an affront to international justice” in a statement read out by a representative.

The League called upon the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to “confirm the illegality of this occupation and unambiguously rule on the legal consequences for all parties, especially those who turn a blind eye, facilitate, assist, or participate in any way in perpetuating this illegal situation”.

Last week, Palestinian representatives asked the judges to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal and said the court’s opinion could help reach a two-state solution to decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has now devastated Gaza.

Israel defies UN court order

Meanwhile, two human rights groups on Monday accused Israel of further limiting humanitarian aid into Gaza despite an order from the UN’s top court.

The ICJ had one month ago said Israel must do everything to prevent genocidal acts in the besieged territory.

It must also take “immediate and effective measures” for aid provision, the World Court said.

But Israeli authorities have “failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply” with the ICJ ruling issued on January 26, Amnesty International said.

Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the number of aid trucks entering Gaza had actually decreased by roughly one-third since the ruling, which came in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention.

“The Israeli government is starving” Gaza’s 2.4 million Palestinians, “putting them in even more peril than before the World Court’s binding order,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said there was a “50 per cent reduction” in humanitarian aid entering Gaza during February compared to January. “Aid was supposed to increase not decrease to address the huge needs of two million Palestinians in desperate living conditions,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on X, formerly Twitter.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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