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US and Allies Withdraw Funding for UN in Gaza a Day After ICJ Genocide Ruling

Meanwhile, a federal court heard arguments that Biden’s administration is legally liable for Israel’s genocide.

Displaced Palestinians wait to receive food on January 27, 2024, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.

Casualties

  • 26,257 killed* and at least 64,797 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 387+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 556 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on Saturday, January 27. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 33,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military.

Key Developments

  • International Court of Justice ruling on Friday garners mixed reviews, Israel and U.S. maintain Israeli innocence, Palestinians point out nothing short of ceasefire will end genocide.
  • UNRWA fires 12 members of staff and announces launch of independent investigation following Israeli claims that some UNRWA employees participated in October 7 attack.
  • U.S., UK, Australia, Italy, and Canada pull funding from UNRWA without waiting for the results of investigation, despite dire humanitarian need in occupied Palestinian territories amid relentless Israeli assault on Gaza.
  • Israeli forces kill at least 174 Palestinians, injure 310 others in Gaza in 24 hours.
  • Multiple reports emerge of Israeli forces killing Palestinians waving white flags, including two brothers aged 14 and 20 fleeing Khan Younis.
  • Israeli forces kill Palestinian in northern occupied West Bank overnight, detain at least eight others.
  • U.S. federal court case opens accusing President Joe Biden and other key officials of complicity in Israeli violations against Palestinians.
  • Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon kill at least four members of Hezbollah movement.
  • U.S. carries out new strikes in Yemen after Ansar Allah targets tanker in Red Sea.

World Reacts to ICJ ruling

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Friday — which found that there was plausible evidence of Israel committing genocidal acts in Gaza and ordered that Israel show proof within a month that it was reversing course on its indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Gaza and obstruction of humanitarian aid, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire — has sparked reactions from Israel, Palestine, and across the world.

Some of the Israeli press framed the decision not to order an immediate ceasefire as a “win” and the “best Israel could hope for.” Others interpreted it as a “warning shot” that could further isolate the Israeli government and its closest ally, the United States, on the international stage.

While Israel had vowed ahead of the ruling that it wouldn’t comply with any ICJ calls for an end to the relentless assault on Gaza, analysts in Israel believe that Tel Aviv won’t openly reject the provisional orders issued by the court — as the Israeli government continues to argue, despite extensive evidence to the contrary on the ground, that it is already doing its utmost to protect Palestinian civilians.

The ICJ notably ordered that Israel prevent and punish officials inciting to genocide. South Africa, which presented the case in front of the ICJ, had cited statements from high-ranking members of the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as proof of genocidal intent against Palestinians in its oral arguments.

The Times of Israel reported on Friday that Netanyahu had instructed his cabinet members to refrain from responding to the ICJ ruling, in vain. Far-right settler and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose own words were cited in the court as evidence of genocidal intent, accused the ICJ of “not seek[ing] justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people.”

Netanyahu himself expressed anger that the court did not throw out the case in its entirety. “The court’s willingness to discuss this at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations,” he said on Friday.

In Palestine, Friday’s ruling received a mixed reception for entirely different reasons.

Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq welcomed the decision as “an important step towards justice for our people.” Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the ruling marked an “end to Israel’s era of impunity.” The PA Foreign Ministry meanwhile said an immediate ceasefire was the only way to ensure Israel’s compliance with the court orders.

South Africa, which has been hailed for bringing the case to the court, commended the ICJ.

“South Africa had to do what was possible to protect hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and not stand idly by. It must do everything possible to protect hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on Friday. “Israel cannot continue its crimes against Palestinian civilians without consequences.”

Scores of countries around the world also expressed support for the decision, with the European Union saying it expected its “full, immediate and effective implementation.”

Israel’s staunchest allies, however, continued to maintain that the court case was baseless.

“There’s no indication that we’ve seen that validates a claim of genocidal intent or action by the Israeli Defense Forces,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Friday, adding that he stood by his previous statements that the ICJ case was “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”

In the U.K., a spokesperson for the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told Al Jazeera on Saturday: “Our view is that Israel’s actions in Gaza cannot be described as a genocide, which is why we thought South Africa’s decision to bring the case was wrong and provocative.”

These statements likely ring hollow for Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom had hoped that the ICJ would call for an immediate ceasefire that could put an end to the devastation and misery they have been facing for 113 days.

“We have no one to support us. No one can stop Israel, no court decisions or UN resolutions. As long as the U.S. supports Israel, we will continue to suffer,” Hassan Khalil, who has been internally displaced five times in three months, told Al Jazeera.

For Palestinian rights groups and advocates, the onus is now on the international community to abide by the ruling and the Geneva Convention, and bring an end to the slaughter of Palestinians.

“This ruling holds immense significance, serving as a crucial milestone in the collective effort to hold Israel accountable for the egregious crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” Issam Younis, the general director of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, said. “The responsibility to end the ongoing genocide in Gaza now lies with the international community, which must fulfill its legal obligations and take decisive measures to safeguard Palestinians from the genocidal acts perpetrated by Israel. Ending the ongoing genocidal Israeli military campaign in Gaza should be the primary pursuit.”

Gaza Suffering Doesn’t End

As expected, the events in The Hague have not slowed Israel’s war machine in the Gaza Strip.

Fighting between armed Palestinian groups and Israeli ground forces was reported in the past 24 hours in al-Bureij, Khan Younis, al-Maghazi, Shuja’iyya, al-Masdar, Beit Lahia, and east of Rafah.

The Gaza Ministry of Health reported on Saturday that Israeli forces had killed at least 174 Palestinians and injured 310 others in the span of 24 hours — bringing the overall estimated toll, which does not include thousands of people still trapped under the rubble, to 26,257 killed and 64,797 wounded.

WAFA news agency reported deadly Israeli strikes on tents and homes where displaced people have been sheltering in the horrifically crowded Rafah, as well as in Khan Younis, Deir al-Balah, and Gaza City. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society meanwhile reported that Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis continued to be under siege by Israeli forces, which shot and killed a young man who had taken refuge in the hospital courtyard on Saturday.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reported on Friday on the killing of two brothers by Israeli snipers earlier this week as they tried to evacuate Al-Amal Hospital — the latest of numerous alleged cases of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Fourteen-year-old Nahed Barbakh, who eyewitnesses said was holding a white flag, was shot by Israeli snipers three times and killed. His brother Ramez, 20, was also shot in the head while trying to rescue the boy.

On Friday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) slammed Israel’s relentless mass displacement of some 85 percent of Gaza’s population into ever tinier slivers of land while continuing to bomb them wherever they go.

“I have very grave concerns that these chaotic and mass evacuation orders are ineffective in ensuring the safety of Palestinian civilians, instead placing them in increasingly vulnerable, dangerous, situations,” Ajith Sunghay, OHCHR’s director in the occupied Palestinian territories. “Such a failure violates Israel’s obligations under international law.”

A report by Ground Truth Solutions, which interviewed scores of internally displaced Palestinians in recent months, said “very few people” in Gaza were able to access formal humanitarian aid amid breakdowns in communication and difficulties in access, leaving many to rely only on one another.

“People are sharing resources among themselves. Their primary source of support is family members. People have also been both giving and receiving food, water, shelter, electricity and healthcare independently of the aid system. They have been taking care of other people’s children, and relying on community support for transportation and the management of daily tasks like sourcing meals, finding fuel, organizing shelters and so on,” the report noted.

UNRWA Once Again in the Crosshairs

On the very day that the ICJ ordered for Israel to ensure the unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, Washington saw fit to cut off all funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

The decision came after Israel claimed that 12 UNRWA workers had been involved in the October 7 attack. UNRWA has said that it has terminated the contracts of these workers as it commissions an independent investigation into the allegations — but the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, and Canada have followed the U.S.’s lead and pulled their funding of the organization.

In an election year during which he is trying to convince the American public that he is the only alternative to the return of Donald Trump to the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden is following his predecessor’s lead, as Trump had partially suspended funding to UNRWA in 2018.

“We call on the countries that announced the cessation of their support for UNRWA to immediately reverse their decision, which entails great political and humanitarian relief risks, as at this particular time and in light of the continuing aggression against the Palestinian people, we need the maximum support for this international organization and not stopping support and assistance to it,” Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh wrote on X.

Hamas, meanwhile, called on the United Nations “not to yield to the threats and blackmails.”

“We stress the importance of the role of these agencies in providing relief to our people and documenting the crimes of the occupation, which exceed the most horrific crimes known to humanity in our modern era,” the movement said in a statement.

Even as the U.S. appears steadfast in siding with Israel, Biden is facing legal trouble at home over his administration’s failure to stop the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Palestinians testified on Friday in front of a federal court, in a case brought forth by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) against Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, arguing that the three high-ranking officials are liable under U.S. law for complicity in Israel’s violations of the Genocide Convention.

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian in the West Bank, Exchanges of Fire Continue on All Fronts

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed at least one Palestinian overnight.

Qassam Ahmad Yasin, 27, was shot and killed in the village of Deir Abu Deif near Jenin, where overnight clashes were reported between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents. Armed confrontations were also reported in Qalqilya, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Etzion, and an Israeli checkpoint in Beit Furik.

Israeli forces have been setting up more flying checkpoints across the Jenin governorate in recent days, assaulting Palestinians and tearing down flags.

Israeli forces detained at least eight Palestinians overnight across the West Bank, WAFA reported.

Meanwhile, Friday marked the sixteenth consecutive week of Israeli restrictions for worshippers seeking to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli forces fired tear gas and skunk water at Palestinians seeking to enter the holy site on the Muslim day of worship.

Further north, the Hezbollah movement said an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Beit Lif on Friday night had killed four of its members, as the Lebanese resistance movement continues to exchange fire with Israel across the Blue Line.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels meanwhile struck a British-linked tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Friday. U.S. forces launched an airstrike on Hodeidah on Saturday in retaliation.

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