Leaders from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand emphasized that the ICJ's provisional decision is "binding," the need for humanitarian aid "has never been greater," and an Israeli assault on Rafah "would be catastrophic."
With mounting fears of an Israeli assault on Rafah and the Gaza Strip's death toll already topping 28,500, the prime ministers of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand on Thursday issued a joint statement with demands including a cease-fire, while U.S. President Joe Biden continued to resist mounting pressure to do the same.
Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese of Australia, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Christopher Luxon of New Zealand began by urging the Israeli government not to attack Rafah, warning it "would be catastrophic," given the "already dire" humanitarian crisis across Gaza and approximately 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into the city.
"A sustainable cease-fire is necessary to finding a path towards securing lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians."
The trio—who had previously put out a joint statement in December—highlighted the "growing international consensus" that there must be a cease-fire after over four months of a war that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, which killed over 1,100 people.
As the BBCreported Thursday, French President Emmanuel and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have also expressed opposition to attacking Rafah, while Ireland and Spain have asked the European Commission "to examine 'urgently' whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza under an accord linking rights to trade."
According to Albanese, Trudeau, and Luxon:
Israel must listen to its friends and it must listen to the international community. The protection of civilians is paramount and a requirement under international humanitarian law. Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas.
An immediate humanitarian cease-fire is urgently needed. Hostages must be released. The need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza has never been greater. Rapid, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian relief must be provided to civilians. The International Court of Justice has been clear: Israel must ensure the delivery of basic services and essential humanitarian assistance and must protect civilians. The court's decisions on provisional measures are binding.
Since the court last month ordered Israel to "take all measures within its power" to uphold its obligations under the Genocide Convention as the South Africa-led case moves forward, Israeli forces have killed thousands of more people in Gaza.
"A sustainable cease-fire is necessary to finding a path towards securing lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians," the three leaders argued. "Any cease-fire cannot be one-sided. Hamas must lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately. We again unequivocally condemn Hamas for its terror attacks on Israel on October 7."
"Ultimately, a negotiated political solution is needed to achieve lasting peace and security," they concluded. "Australia, Canada, and New Zealand remain steadfast in their commitment to a two-state solution, including the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace, security, and dignity."
Officials from the United States, Qatar, and Egypt have been negotiating a possible exchange of hostages taken on October 7 and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel as well as a pause in fighting. On Wednesday, The New York Timesreported that "those talks are still underway in Cairo, but, according to Israeli news outlets, Mr. Netanyahu told Israel's representatives not to return to Cairo."
Netanyahu has not publicly confirmed the move but said in a statement Wednesday that "strong military pressure and very tough negotiations" are "the key to freeing more of our hostages." He added: "Indeed, I insist that Hamas drop its delusional demands. When they do so, we will be able to move forward."
While Biden has publicly called out Israel's "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza and privately expressed frustrations with Netanyahu—reporting the White House contests—his administration has also bypassed Congress to arm Israeli forces and asked federal lawmakers for a $14.3 billion package on top of the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel.
Like the trio of prime ministers, Win Without War executive director Sara Haghdoosti stressed in Thursday statement that Israel's looming "full-scale attack on Rafah would be catastrophic," though she added that "the U.S. is likely the only government in the world that could sway the Israeli government to not move forward with this plan."