Top UN court stops short of ordering cease-fire in Gaza

Judges in The Hague have partially granted provisional measures requested against Israel by South Africa. The court ordered Israel to do more to protect civilians but did not demand a halt to military operations in Gaza.
Top UN court stops short of ordering cease-fire in Gaza
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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands, on Friday, January 26, ruled on South Africa's request for "provisional measures" against Israel amid claims of state-led genocide. Court President Joan Donoghue said the court was extremely worried by the loss of life in the Gaza Strip.

"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 said. The judge said that, in the court's view, at least some of Israel's actions in Gaza brought forward by South Africa fell within the provisions of the UN's Genocide Convention.

Donoghue said the court could not "accede to Israel's request that the case be removed from the general list." The judge said the court ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide and the incitement of genocide. She also ordered Israel to report to the court on all measures to give effect to the court's orders within a month.

What was the court asked to decide?

The Hague-based court was asked to rule on nine measures, including an order compelling Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza.

The ruling did not deal with South Africa's core accusation in the case as to whether Israel is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave. Instead, the measures sought by South Africa were intended to "protect against further... harm to the rights of the Palestinian people" under the Genocide Convention.

The provisional measures requested by South Africa were essentially requests to be put in place before a final ruling on the main case, which could take years.

While the ICJ's rulings are binding on all parties, it has no mechanism to enforce them.

What South Africa says

South Africa has contended that Israel's actions have breached the United Nations Genocide Convention and that they were intended to "bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group."

"The acts in question include 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," South Africa's writ says. "The acts are all attributable to Israel, which has failed to prevent genocide and is committing genocide in manifest violation of the Genocide Convention."

What Israel says

Israel's lawyer Tal Becker has dismissed the South African case as a "profoundly distorted factual and legal picture" and a "decontextualised and manipulative description of the reality." Becker showed the court images of the brutal Hamas terror attack of October 7 and said that "if there have been acts that may be characterized as genocidal, then they have been perpetrated against Israel."

The lawyer denied that Israel's operations were aimed Gaza's citizens. He said the army's aim was "not to destroy a people, but to protect a people, its people, who are under attack on multiple fronts."

Israel has vowed to annihilate the Islamist movement Hamas after the attacks that left about 1,140 people dead in Israel. The Israeli military has launched an offensive in Gaza that the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 25,900 people.

Israel's strongest ally the United States has opposed South Africa's case, while some European Union members and Britain have refused to support it. The ICJ, also called the World Court, is the only international court that adjudicates general disputes between nations.

(This article has been republished with permission from The original article can be read here.)

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