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ICJ orders Israel to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza

ICJ President Joan Donoghue (C) speaks at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prior to the verdict announcement in the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa, in The Hague on January 26, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations' top court has ordered the Israeli regime to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

The order by the International Court of Justice was part of its interim ruling on the emergency measures requested by South Africa in its genocide case against Israel over its war on the Gaza Strip.

The court demanded Israel try to contain death and damage in the Gaza Strip and warned it to "take all measures in its power to prevent" acts that could fall under the UN Genocide Convention set up in 1948.

The court also ordered Israel to take measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Israel must take "immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians," the court said.

It ordered the regime to report back in one month on the measures it has been asked to carry out.

Palestinians appear to be a protected group under the genocide convention, the court said, noting that it has jurisdiction to rule in the case.

Friday's ruling at the ICJ did not deal with the core accusation of the case – whether genocide occurred – but focused on the urgent intervention sought by South Africa.

The case was brought by South Africa, which has accused Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention.

Over two days of hearings earlier this month in the gilded hall of the Peace Palace, where the ICJ sits, lawyers from both sides battled it over the interpretation of this Convention.

South Africa said Israel had carried out "genocidal" acts that were intended to cause the "destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group."

It urged the court to order Israel to "immediately suspend" its military operations in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid to reach the civilians there.

The question now is whether the court's rulings will be obeyed. Although its rulings are legally binding, the ICJ has no mechanism to enforce them and they are sometimes completely ignored.

South Africa has been one of the outspoken critics of Israel’s ongoing onslaught against Palestinians and has led some initiatives to hold Israel accountable for its actions in Gaza. The African country, which has experienced long years of an apartheid regime, has been praised by activists as the vanguard of the global conscience and voice of the oppressed.

At least 26,083 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children, and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7.

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