(CNN) — The United Nations’ top court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its controversial military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, further increasing international pressure on Israel over its war against Hamas.

“Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in Rafah which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), said on Friday.

The court considers the humanitarian situation in Rafah to be classified as “disastrous,” he said, adding that UN officials indicated that the situation was set to “intensify even further” if the Israeli operation in Rafah continues.

Israel began a limited ground offensive in Rafah on May 7, defying calls from the international community, including the United States, not to proceed. Upon entering, the military seized the city’s border crossing with Egypt, which has remained shut since. The crossing was a vital entry point for humanitarian aid.

More than a million Palestinians were taking shelter there before Israel started its operation, but the court noted that around 800,000 have since been displaced.

The court said it had found that the evacuation and living conditions provided by Israel are not “sufficient to alleviate the immense risk, which the Palestinian population is exposed” to.

Rulings by the court are final and binding, but the ICJ doesn’t have a mechanism to enforce them, and they have been ignored in the past.

South Africa filed an urgent request on May 10 for additional measures against Israel, accusing it of using forced evacuation orders in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to “endanger rather than protect civilian life.” The request was part of a larger case brought by Pretoria against Israel in which South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians during the seven-month-long conflict.

Israel’s Deputy Attorney General for International Law Gilad Noam denied the allegations in his opening remarks at the ICJ last week and asked the court to “respect the predicament” Israel is in.

The development comes as Israel faces mounting international and domestic pressure to end the war in Gaza.

This week, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), a separate court in The Hague, sought arrest warrants for Hamas leaders as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Families of Israeli hostages held in the territory also stepped up pressure on Netanyahu to bring the captives home, releasing graphic footage of female members of the Israel Defense Forces before they were abducted.

(Copyright (c) 2024 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox