ICJ orders Israel to avert genocide in Gaza

todayJanuary 26, 2024 53

share close

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The court delivered the historic ruling in a case that had been lodged by South Africa on Friday afternoon.

Pretoria had asked for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, arguing that Israel was violating the UN Convention on Genocide with its continuous bombardment of the Palestinian territory.

Handing down the ruling, ICJ President, Judge Joan Donoghue, said the court found a prima facie case of genocide against Israel and the ICJ has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Among its six provisional measures, it ordered Israel to immediately allow for emergency relief for civilians in the Gaza Strip and for Hamas to release all hostages.

The ICJ expressed concern over the loss of life and human suffering in the Palestinian territory.

“The ICJ notes that while the number of Palestinian deaths can’t be independently verified Israel’s military operation has led to a large number of deaths (approximately 25 000), injuries, damage to homes and institutions. The ICJ has found that provisional measures can be made due to the urgency of the crisis in Gaza.”

Israel must report to the court within a month on what it is doing to uphold the order. The decision is legally-binding, but the court has no way to enforce it.

While an Israeli judge on the 17-member panel voted for two of the measures in the court order, including the call for Israel to refrain from public incitement, a Ugandan judge was the lone member to not vote in favour of the humanitarian aid measures.

ICJ order

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, did not deal with South Africa’s main allegation on whether Israel is committing genocide, though it said it would not throw out the case, as Israel requested.

So far, more than 26 000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, are said to have been killed in the three-month old war, which began in October when militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel, killing more than 1 200 Israelis and taking 240 others hostage.

Israel defiant

Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says his country will continue to defend itself against Hamas.

“Israel’s commitment to international law is unshakable. Equally unshakable is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and protect our people. Like any country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself. The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it is rightly rejected,” said Netanyahu after the ruling.

He has also reiterated Israel’s long-held stance that their war is against “the terrorists of Hamas, not against Palestinian civilians”.

“We will continue to facilitate humanitarian aid, and do our utmost to keep civilians away from harm, even when Hamas uses civilians as human shields. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect our country and protect our people.”

‘Victory for international law’

President Cyril Ramphosa has described the ICJ’s interim order as a victory for international law and justice for the people of Gaza.

President Ramaphosa says Pretoria expects Israel to abide by it.

“Some have said we should mind our own business and not get involved in the affairs of other countries. Others have said its not our place, and yet it very much our place as a people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, state sponsored violence. We also a people who were the victims of the crime of apartheid.

“We know what apartheid looks like, we lived through it,” said Ramaphosa.


Outside court in The Hague, International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, said she would have wanted to hear the ICJ order a “ceasefire”, but believes the provisions the court listed can only lead to one.

“I would have wanted a ceasefire, but there is no way I am going to say I am disappointed. I hoped for it but the fact of delivering humanitarian aid, the fact of taking measures that would reduce harm against persons who have no roles in what Israel is combatting, for me requires a ceasefire.”

World views

The South African Jewish Board of Directors (SAJBD) has welcomed what it terms the ICJ’s recognition of Israel’s right to defend its citizens by denying the ANC government’s request for a ceasefire.

The national chairperson of the organisation, Prof Karen Milner, says the government’s failure to callout Hamas and playing constructive role in engaging both sides is saddening.

“We continue to mourn the tragic loss of life on both sides and support the continued facilitation of humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocents caught up in Hamas’s war.”

Africa4Palestine leader, Muhammed Desai, says the ruling will give hope to the Palestinians.

Speaking to YNews, Desai described the court’s ruling as a defeat for “apartheid” Israel, adding that his organisation hopes mechanisms will now be put in place to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

The governing ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have also welcomed the ruling, with the EFF saying the interim measures give hope that one day the bombardment and occupation of Gaza will come to an end.

The European Union (EU) says it expects full, immediate and effective implementation of the court’s measures.

“Orders of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties and they must comply with them,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Amnesty International says the interim ruling “sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale.”

Iran, the First Minister of Scotland, the former leader of the Labour Party in the UK and South Africa’s former Public Protector are among those who also weighed in on the matter.

“Today, the officials of the fake Israeli regime are the most hated people in the world’s public opinion, who must be brought to justice immediately for committing genocide and unprecedented war crimes against Palestinians,” Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

Rate it