March 2024

As the UN scrambles for a ceasefire, the ICJ orders Israel to stop famine in Gaza

On 25 March, the United Nations Security Council successfully passed Resolution 2728, which “Demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire.” Introduced by the ten elected members of the Security Council (E10), the resolution also reiterates the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, protect civilians, and ensure the safe and unconditional release of all hostages. 

These unequivocal demands were met with near-unanimous support, with fourteen Council members voting in favour, while the United States abstained. This represents a notable shift for the United States, which has vetoed all similar efforts in the Security Council since 7 October, highlighting the impact of mounting public pressure domestically and increasing isolation on the international stage.  

While QUNO New York welcomes these positive developments, we recognise that implementation and enforcement are critical. Since the adoption of Resolution 2728, Israeli military operations have continued across Gaza, with intense bombing and ground operations resulting in more death, displacement, and destruction. Israel continues its preparations to launch a ground operation in Rafah, where an estimated 1.2 million people are seeking shelter. 

On 28 March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determined that “famine is setting in” in Gaza, and issued additional provisional measures which ordered Israel to cooperate with the UN to deliver urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid. These additional measures order Israel to increase the number of land crossing points and ensure that the military does not prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Noting the adoption of Resolution 2728, the Court also acknowledged the overwhelming consensus among UN and humanitarian organisations that “the catastrophic humanitarian situation can only be addressed if the military operations in the Gaza Strip are suspended.”

These actions come after Israeli Defence Forces have killed over 32,000 Palestinians, following Hamas’s attack on 7 October, in which 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage. In addition to the staggering death toll, the Israeli military’s bombing and ground offensive campaigns have displaced as many as 1.7 million people (roughly 75% of the population) from Gaza who are now seeking shelter. As a result of the restriction of humanitarian aid and supplies, those displaced are experiencing a preventable, human-made famine, as well as severe limitations in access to medical supplies, electricity, and other necessities. As famine-like conditions worsen and humanitarian aid continues to be blocked and arbitrarily denied, it’s imperative for the international community to ensure that the ICJ’s orders are met with rapid action.

With less than two weeks left of Ramadan, a temporary ceasefire – if implemented – will come as a welcome reprieve for the 2.2 million people under siege in Gaza. However, all diplomatic efforts must now be focused on implementing Resolution 2728 and enforcing the ICJ provisional measures, in addition to negotiating a permanent ceasefire which puts a definitive end to the bloodshed. 

While QUNO New York continues to be a strong voice for peace, the shifting dynamics at the UN also reveal the impact of public pressure. It is imperative that individuals and communities continue to apply pressure on their elected officials to uphold international law and demand a permanent ceasefire. Our AFSC colleagues in Gaza continue to emphasise that all actions, however small, are saving lives in Gaza. To learn more about actions you can take, please visit these resources from AFSC and FCNL.

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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