An international court has not ordered Israel to end its offensive in Gaza – but demanded that it does everything in its power to prevent acts of genocide.
The ruling by judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) comes at an early stage in South Africa’s case alleging that Israel’s military action in its war with Hamas in Gaza is genocidal.
The court ruled it has jurisdiction to hear arguments and it therefore denied Israel’s request that it throws out the case.
It ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide and report back to the court within one month.
South Africa filed the case, arguing Israel is breaching the UN convention on genocide by “killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”.
Israel has rejected the accusation as false and “grossly distorted” and has asked the court to throw out the case, saying it makes the utmost efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
While the judges consider the genocide allegations – which may take years to rule on – South Africa asked the court “as a matter of extreme urgency” to issue an interim order compelling Israel to suspend military operations to protect Palestinians in Gaza while the case proceeds slowly through the court.
“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,” Joan E Donoghue, the court’s president, said.
The Palestinians has welcomed the provisional measures ordered by the court, with foreign minister Riyad al Maliki saying: “The ICJ judges assessed the facts and the law, they ruled in favor of humanity and international law.”
Mr Maliki added that the Palestinians calls on all states to ensure the measures ordered by the court are implemented “including by Israel, the occupying power”.
Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, in response to the ruling posted on X saying: “Hague shmague”.
South Africa also welcomed the measures describing the ruling as a “decisive victory for the international rule of law”.
The country added: “South Africa will continue to do everything within its power to preserve the existence of the Palestinian people as a group, to end all acts of apartheid and genocide against the Palestinian people and to walk with them towards the realisation of their collective right to self-determination, for, as Nelson Mandela momentously declared, “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
Speaking at outside the court South Africa’s minister of international relations and cooperation Naledi Pador said: “We believe the moment is now ripe to open negotiations for a two state solution to end this conflict decisively.”
She added that she believed in order to implement the order Israel would have to instigate a ceasefire.
The ICJ’s rulings are final and without appeal, but it has no way of enforcing them.
Israel on Thursday expressed confidence that the court would “throw out these spurious and specious charges”.
Hamas said it would abide by an ICJ ceasefire order if Israel reciprocates.