ICJ orders Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza

ICJ orders Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza

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The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza in a politically explosive case brought by South Africa that alleges the country is committing genocide in the enclave.

The UN’s highest court ruled on Friday that Israel should also take steps to “prevent and punish” incitement to genocide, as well as to ensure basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.

In a hearing in The Hague, the 17-strong panel of judges did not grant South Africa’s request that Israel should be ordered to “immediately suspend” its military operations in the enclave. But, in a blow to Israel, it declined to throw the case out, as the Jewish state had requested.

“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 Donoghue, the court’s president, said.

Friday’s decision relates only to South Africa’s request for emergency measures to be applied while the case is heard. A final ruling on Pretoria’s allegation that Israel is committing genocide will probably take years.

But the case — which has left a western-backed democracy facing allegations of committing the highest international crime — has already made waves around the world. It is likely to add to the mounting international pressure on Israel to rein in its operations in Gaza.

After the order, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the military campaign while doing “our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way”.

Describing the allegation of genocide as “false and outrageous”, he depicted the court’s decision not to call for a ceasefire as a victory for Israel. “Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself,” he said. “The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected.”

But South Africa hailed the ruling, which was watched live by President Cyril Ramaphosa alongside Palestinian officials, as a “decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people”.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said the ICJ had ruled in “favour of humanity and international law”. He added that the decision “should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity”.

South Africa brought the case under the 1948 Genocide Convention. It claimed that, by killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting “conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”, Israel was responsible for genocide.

During hearings at the ICJ this month, South Africa’s legal team said Israel’s assault had killed 1 per cent of Gaza’s population and injured one in four Gazans, arguing that Israel had a “genocidal intent” that was “evident from the way in which (its) military attack is being conducted”.

Israel has furiously rejected the claims as “profoundly distorted”, maintaining that its forces in Gaza are complying with international law.

Israel declared war after the October 7 Hamas attack in which 1,200 people were killed, and a further 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza has killed more than 26,000 people, according to Palestinian officials, as well as displacing 1.7mn of the enclave’s 2.3mn inhabitants, and reducing huge swaths of the territory to uninhabitable rubble.

In its application to the court, South Africa had requested nine emergency measures. The court applied six, including instructions for Israel to preserve evidence relating to the case and submit a report to the tribunal on the measures it is taking to comply within one month.

The court’s decisions on emergency measures are legally binding, but it cannot enforce them itself. In March 2022, it ordered Russia to suspend its military operations in Ukraine, but Moscow refused to comply.

Additional reporting by Mehul Srivastava and Rob Rose

The post ICJ orders Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza first appeared on Investorempires.com.


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