Germany to defend war facilitation claims at The Hague, Israel withdraws troops from Khan Younis


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Germany to defend itself at The Hague

Preliminary hearings open on Monday at the United Nations’ top court in a case that seeks an end to German military and other aid to Israel.

The case alleges that Berlin’s assistance contributes to acts of genocide and violations of international law amidst the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel strongly denies its military campaign amounts to breaches of the Genocide Convention.

While the case brought by Nicaragua centres on Germany, it indirectly takes aim at Israel’s military campaign in Gaza following the deadly October 7 attacks. 

“We are calm and we will set out our legal position in court,” German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sebastian Fischer said ahead of the hearings.

“We reject Nicaragua’s accusations,” Fischer told reporters in Berlin on Friday. “Germany has breached neither the genocide convention nor international humanitarian law, and we will set this out in detail before the International Court of Justice.”

The court will likely take weeks to deliver its preliminary decision and Nicaragua’s case will probably drag on for years.

Israel withdraws forces

Israel announced on Sunday it had withdrawn its forces from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, wrapping up a key phase in its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group. 

Defence officials said troops were regrouping as the army prepares to move into Hamas’ last stronghold, Rafah. “The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” military chief, Herzi Halevi, said. 

Local broadcaster Channel 13 TV reported that Israel was preparing to begin evacuating Rafah within one week and the process could take several months.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, military officials said a “significant force” of Israeli military remained in Gaza to continue targeted operations, which includes Khan Younis, hometown of the Hamas leader, Yehya Sinwar.

AP video in Khan Younis showed some people returning to a landscape marked by shattered multistory buildings and climbing over debris. Cars were overturned and charred. Southern Gaza’s main hospital, Nasser, was in shambles.

Six months of war

It comes as Israel and Hamas mark just over six months of fighting since the October 7 attack, which has left more than 1,200 Israelis dead, hundreds held hostage and over 32,000 Palestinians killed. 

For weeks Israel has vowed a ground offensive in nearby Rafah. But the city shelters some 1.4 million people – more than half of Gaza’s population. The prospect of an offensive has raised global alarm, including from Israel’s top ally, the US. 

White House national security spokesman John Kirby repeated on Sunday the US opposition to a Rafah offensive and told ABC the partial Israeli withdrawal “is really just about rest and refit for these troops that have been on the ground for four months and not necessarily, that we can tell, indicative of some coming new operation for these troops.”

The six-month mark has been met with growing frustration in Israel, where anti-government protests have swelled and anger is mounting over what some see as government inaction to help free about 130 remaining hostages.

Several thousand protesters called for a “hostage deal now” at a rally outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, organised by hostages’ families. In southern Israel, weeping relatives gathered at the site of a music festival where more than 300 people were killed on October 7.

“It’s an impossible reality for us, it’s an impossible reality for the Gazans and the people of this country. We just want to live,” said one protester, Talia Ezrahi.

“I would agree to anything to return the hostages and stop the mass killings in Gaza,” said another protester, Michal Fruchtman.

Hostage release negotiations

Negotiations in pursuit of a ceasefire in exchange for the hostages’ release were expected to resume in Cairo on Sunday. An Israeli delegation led by the head of the Mossad intelligence agency was going to Cairo, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Negotiations are backdropped by increasing scepticism of Israel’s handling of the war, particularly around the Israeli airstrike that killed international aid workers delivering food in Gaza. 

“This doesn’t seem (like) a war against terror. This doesn’t seem anymore a war about defending Israel. This really, at this point, seems it’s a war against humanity itself,” chef José Andrés told ABC after his World Central Kitchen colleagues were killed in Gaza. 

Aid deliveries on a crucial new sea route to the territory were suspended.

“Humanity has been all but abandoned” in Gaza, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement.

Warning of “imminent famine”

The United Nations now warns of “imminent famine” for more than 1 million people in Gaza. Humanitarian workers urge Israel to loosen restrictions on the delivery of aid overland as some Palestinians forage for weeds to eat. Thousands of aid trucks have been waiting to enter Gaza.

“It’s a slow-motion massacre of people to subject them to the kind of deprivation of food and water that they have been subjected to for the last six months,” Doctors Without Borders USA executive director Avril Benoit told CBS.

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