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World Court says Israel must take steps to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza

January 26, 2024 at 2:20 pm

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa Naledi Pandor makes statements to press members after attending a session on the day the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rule on Gaza genocide case against Israel made by South Africa in the Hague, the Netherlands on January 26, 2024. [Selman Aksünger – Anadolu Agency]

The World Court, on Friday, ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but it stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, Reuters reports.

Ruling on a case brought by South Africa, the Court said Israel must ensure its forces did not commit genocide and take measures to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians in the enclave.

In the ruling, 15 of the 17 judges on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) panel voted for emergency measures which covered most of what South African asked for, with the notable exception of ordering a halt to Israeli military action in Gaza.

Israel’s military operation has laid waste to much of the densely populated enclave and killed more than 25,000 Palestinians in nearly four months, according to Gaza health authorities.

Israel unleashed its assault after a cross-border rampage on 7 October by Hamas. Israeli officials said 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and 240 taken hostage.

Live: ICJ issues ruling on measures against Israel’s ‘genocidal’ bombing of Gaza

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Court said it was “gravely concerned” about the fate of the hostages in Gaza and called on Hamas and other armed groups to immediately release them without conditions.

But the ruling, welcomed by Palestinians, will still be an embarrassment for Israel and its closest allies, including the United States.

Israel had asked the Court to reject the case outright, saying it respects international law and has a right to defend itself.

“The state of Israel shall … take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of the Genocide Convention,” the Court said.

Israel must report back to it on what steps it was taking in a month’s time, the Court said.

While the ICJ’s decisions are final and without appeal, the Court has no way to enforce them.

The Court did not rule, at this stage, on the core of the case brought by South Africa – whether genocide has occurred in Gaza. But it recognised the right of Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide.

South Africa’s deputy President, Paul Mashatile, and Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, were seen cheering and dancing at a gathering of the governing African National Congress party following the Court’s verdict.

South Africa argued two weeks ago that Israel’s aerial and ground offensive was aimed to bring about “the destruction of the population” of Gaza.

The 1948 Genocide Convention, enacted in the wake of the mass murder of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Acts of genocide named in the Convention include: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the group in whole or in part.

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