The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, handed down a ruling on Friday, stipulating that Israel must undertake actions to prevent any actions that could be construed as genocide in the conflict in the Gaza Strip. However, the court did not order a cease-fire, as requested by South Africa, the party that brought the case before the court’s 17-judge panel.

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In its ruling on the case brought by South Africa, the World Court issued a ruling on Friday, directing Israel to take steps to prevent acts of genocide during its conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

However, the court did not explicitly call for an immediate ceasefire. The ruling emphasised that Israel must ensure that its military forces do not engage in genocidal actions and must also work towards improving the humanitarian conditions for Palestinian civilians living in the Gaza enclave.

Of the 17 judges on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) panel, 15 voted in favour of emergency measures that fulfilled most of South Africa’s requests. However, they did not order a stop to Israeli military action in Gaza.

Israel must take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians,” ICJ President Joan Donoghue said as she read out the court’s preliminary ruling.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” she added.

“The Court considers that the civilian population in the Gaza Strip remains extremely vulnerable,” said Judge Donoghue, further adding: “The Court considers that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the Court renders its final judgment.”

The military operation has caused significant destruction and resulted in the deaths of over 26,000 Palestinians in Gaza for almost four months, as reported by Gaza health authorities.

Israel launched its deadly attack on October 7 2023 in response to a cross-border incursion by Hamas militants. According to Israeli authorities, the attack resulted in the death of 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and 240 people taken hostage.

The court expressed serious concern about the well-being of the hostages in Gaza and urged Hamas and other armed groups to release them promptly and unconditionally.

The ruling, despite falling short of meeting Palestinian aspirations for a definitive directive to cease the hostilities in Gaza, has posed a significant legal setback for Israel. The Israeli government had sought to dismiss the case that was initiated based on the genocide convention, which was established as a response to the horrific events witnessed during the Holocaust.

As part of the South Africa-related case, the court did not rule at this stage on whether genocide has occurred in Gaza. However, it did acknowledge that Palestinians in Gaza have the right to be protected from acts of genocide.


In his response to the ruling, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated: “We will continue to defend ourselves and our citizens while adhering to international law.”

He also declared: “Israel is fighting a just war like no other. We will continue this war until absolute victory until all hostages are returned and Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel.”

Additionally, he expressed his strong disapproval of the ICJ’s decision to entertain discussions about genocide allegations against Israel, stating that this was “a disgrace that will not be erased for generations”.

“Israel will continue to defend itself against Hamas, a genocidal terror organisation.

“On October 7, Hamas perpetrated the most horrific atrocities against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and it vows to repeat these atrocities again and again and again. Our war is against Hamas terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians,” charged Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said they did not require any lectures on morality. Following the attack by Hamas on October 7th, Gallant had previously announced that Israel would enforce a complete blockade on Gaza as a means to combat “human animals”.

“The ICJ in The Hague went above and beyond when it granted South Africa’s antisemitic request to discuss the claim of genocide in Gaza, and now refuses to reject the petition outright,” said Gallant.

In a televised response to the ICJ ruling, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his expectation for Israel to faithfully adhere to the International Court of Justice’s decision, emphasising the crucial role in preventing the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

“We expect Israel as a self-proclaimed democracy and a state that respects the rule of law to abide by the measures handed down.”

Ramaphosa further said: “Today, Israel stands before the international community, its crimes against the Palestinians laid bare.

“Some have told us we should mind our own business and not get involved in the affairs of other countries and yet it is very much our place as the people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, and state-sponsored violence.”

He praised the ICJ’s decision to grant South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel regarding its actions in Gaza. It expressed gratitude for the quick ruling and promised to use global institutions to safeguard the rights of Palestinians in Gaza.

“Today marks a decisive victory for international rule of law and a significant milestone in search of justice for Palestinian people,” said Ramaphosa.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of international relations, said the International Court of Justice ruling means that Israel must stop fighting in Gaza.

Speaking to the media outside the UN court in The Hague, Pandor said: “How do you provide aid and water without a ceasefire? If you read the order, by implication a ceasefire must happen.”

The European Union said, in a statement, it expects Israel and Hamas to fully comply with the rulings of the International Court of Justice.

“We take note of today’s order of the International Court of Justice on South Africa’s request for the indication of provisional measures.

“The EU reaffirms its continuing support to the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

“Orders of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties, and they must comply with them. The EU expects their full, immediate and effective implementation.”

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, welcomed the ruling by the ICJ, describing it as an “important reminder that no state is above the law.”

He further stated, in a televised speech: “The ICJ judges assessed the facts and the law, they ruled in favour of humanity and international law.

“We call on all states to ensure that all provisional measures ordered by the Court are implemented, including by Israel, the occupying power. This is a binding legal obligation.

“The ICJ order is an important reminder that no state is above the law. It should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity.”

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior member of Hamas, called for the enforcement of the orders made by the ICJ on Israel. According to him, the ruling signifies a significant advancement in holding Israel accountable and shedding light on the atrocities committed in Gaza.

“The International Court of Justice ruling is an important development that contributes to isolating the occupation (Israel) and exposing its crimes in Gaza. We call for compelling the occupation to implement the court’s decisions.”

Israel has been instructed to provide a report to the ICJ within one month, detailing its efforts in adhering to the obligation of preventing acts of genocide in Gaza and the measures it has taken to fulfil the court’s order.

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