Netanyahu Denounces Tactical Pauses in Gaza Fighting to Get in Aid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the Knesset plenum vote on the ultra-Orthodox conscription to military service law, in the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, 10 June 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the Knesset plenum vote on the ultra-Orthodox conscription to military service law, in the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, 10 June 2024. (EPA)
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Netanyahu Denounces Tactical Pauses in Gaza Fighting to Get in Aid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the Knesset plenum vote on the ultra-Orthodox conscription to military service law, in the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, 10 June 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the Knesset plenum vote on the ultra-Orthodox conscription to military service law, in the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, 10 June 2024. (EPA)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized plans announced by the military on Sunday to hold daily tactical pauses in fighting along one of the main roads into Gaza to facilitate aid delivery into the Palestinian enclave.

The military had announced the daily pauses from 0500 GMT until 1600 GMT in the area from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards.

"When the prime minister heard the reports of an 11-hour humanitarian pause in the morning, he turned to his military secretary and made it clear that this was unacceptable to him," an Israeli official said.

The military clarified that normal operations would continue in Rafah, the main focus of its operation in southern Gaza, where eight soldiers were killed on Saturday.

The reaction from Netanyahu underlined political tensions over the issue of aid coming into Gaza, where international organizations have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who leads one of the nationalist religious parties in Netanyahu's ruling coalition, denounced the idea of a tactical pause, saying whoever decided it was a "fool" who should lose their job.

DIVISIONS BETWEEN COALITION, ARMY

The spat was the latest in a series of clashes between members of the coalition and the military over the conduct of the war, now in its ninth month.

It came a week after centrist former general Benny Gantz quit the government, accusing Netanyahu of having no effective strategy in Gaza.

The divisions were laid bare last week in a parliamentary vote on a law on conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant voting against it in defiance of party orders, saying it was insufficient for the needs of the military.

Religious parties in the coalition have strongly opposed conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, drawing widespread anger from many Israelis, which has deepened as the war has gone on.

Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, the head of the military, said on Sunday there was a "definite need" to recruit more soldiers from the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community.

RESERVISTS UNDER STRAIN

Despite growing international pressure for a ceasefire, an agreement to halt the fighting still appears distant, more than eight months since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters on Israel triggered a ground assault on the enclave by Israeli forces.

Since the attack, which killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners in Israeli communities, Israel's military campaign has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health ministry figures, and destroyed much of Gaza.

Although opinion polls suggest most Israelis support the government's aim of destroying Hamas, there have been widespread protests attacking the government for not doing more to bring home around 120 hostages who are still in Gaza after being taken hostage on Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials said seven Palestinians were killed in two air strikes on two houses in Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

As fighting in Gaza has continued, a lower level conflict across the Israel-Lebanon border is now threatening to spiral into a wider war as near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia have escalated.

In a further sign that fighting in Gaza could drag on, Netanyahu's government said on Sunday it was extending until Aug. 15 the period it would fund hotels and guest houses for residents evacuated from southern Israeli border towns.



Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)

The UN's top court, in a sweeping opinion on Friday, said that Israel's decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory was "illegal" and needed to end as soon as possible.

The advisory opinion by The Hague-based International Court of Justice was immediately slammed as a "decision of lies" by Israel, but welcomed by the Palestinian presidency, which called it "historic".

The ICJ's statement, called an "advisory opinion", is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel's war against Hamas sparked by the group's brutal October 7 attacks.

It is also likely to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel, whose lawmakers on Thursday voted to oppose a Palestinian state, calling it an "existential threat".

In The Hague, ICJ presiding judge Nawaf Salam said: "The court has found... that Israel's continued presence in the Palestinian Territories is illegal."

Israel is "under the obligation to bring to an end its unlawful presence as rapidly as possible," the judge said in its finding, read at the Peace Palace, seat of the ICJ.

The ICJ added that Israel was "under an obligation to cease immediately all new settlement activities and to evacuate all settlers" from occupied land.

Israel's policies and practices, including the maintenance of a wall between the territories, "amount to annexation of large parts" of the occupied territory, the court said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the ICJ's opinion as a "decision of lies".

"The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land -- not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria" (the occupied West Bank), Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki called it a "watershed moment".

A separate, high-profile case that South Africa has brought before the court alleges that Israel has committed genocidal acts during its Gaza offensive.

South Africa, in a statement, called upon the international community "to bring an immediate end to the occupation and the gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people".

- 'Extreme danger' -

In late 2022, the UN's General Assembly asked the ICJ to give an "advisory opinion" on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following the request -- supported by most countries within the Assembly.

During the hearings, most speakers called on Israel to end its 57-year occupation. They warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.

Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.

- 'Ongoing violation' -

The General Assembly asked the ICJ to consider two questions.

Firstly, the court should examine the legal consequences of what the UN called "the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination".

In its answer, the ICJ's judges said Israel's "unlawful policies and practices are in breach" of its "obligation to respect the rights of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination".

In June 1967, Israel defeated some of its Arab neighbors in a six-day war, seizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, at the time annexed by Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Israel then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of seized Arab territory.

The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal, and Cairo regained Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

- 'Restrictions' -

The ICJ also was asked to look into the consequences of what it described as Israel's "adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures".

In this finding, the ICJ said a "regime of comprehensive restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians consisted of systemic discrimination based on race, religion or ethnic origin."

The ICJ rules in disputes between states. Normally, its judgements are binding but it has few means to enforce them.

In this case, however, the opinion is non-binding, although most advisory opinions are in fact acted upon.

The ICJ has previously issued advisory opinions on the legality of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and apartheid South Africa's occupation of Namibia.

It also handed down an opinion in 2004 declaring that parts of the wall erected by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory were illegal and should be torn down.

Israel has not complied with that ICJ ruling.