UN Court Orders Israel To Prevent Genocide, Halt Killings of Civilians in Gaza, Stops Short of Ordering Cease-fire

The ruling was a victory for Israel because it rejected Hamas’ bid for a cease-fire and demanded release of the hostages. However, it was a diplomatic blow to Israel because of the association with genocide.

By Mohammad Al-Kassim/The Media Line

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction, and any acts of genocide in Gaza, in the first ruling in the case filed by South Africa against Israel. However, the judges stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has been raging for more than three months in the Palestinian enclave.

Judges from the world’s top court voted overwhelmingly in favor of six provisional measures, including that Israel must urgently get basic aid into Gaza and punish any incitement to genocide, among other measures. “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,” ICJ President Joan E. Donoghue said in a statement after the ruling.

The panel of judges also told Israel to submit a report on the steps taken to adhere to its orders within a month.

Addressing Hamas, the ICJ called on the group directly to release the hostages who are still in captivity. In response, Hamas urged the international community to make Israel carry out the court’s orders.

The court ruling amounted to an overwhelming admonishment of Israel’s wartime conduct and added to swelling international pressure to halt the nearly four-month-old military offensive that has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, decimated vast swaths of Gaza, and driven nearly 85% of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Since Oct. 7, 2023, Israel has been involved in a bloody conflict with Hamas in Gaza after the group launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the ICJ’s decision not to order a cease-fire but rejected the claim of genocide as “outrageous.” He said the fact that the court was willing to discuss the genocide charges was a “mark of shame that will not be erased for generations.”

Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the war, saying in a public statement that “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people. Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself.”

The embattled prime minister added, “The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected. The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.”

Former Israeli Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who sat on the panel of judges, said he supported the ICJ’s orders in the hope that they would “help to decrease tensions and discourage damaging rhetoric” while easing the “consequences of the armed conflict for the most vulnerable.”

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir expressed his contempt for the court’s decision, posting the humorously dismissive phrase “Hague Shmague” on social media. This echoed Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who as defense minister in 1955, during a cabinet debate on a plan to take control of the Gaza Strip to prevent terrorist infiltrations, dismissed concerns about the UN (“Um” in Hebrew) with the phrase “Um Shmum.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel did not need to be lectured on morality.

“The operative point of view is that Israel won a victory because Hamas’ intention was to reach a cease-fire, and that was rejected,” Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the US and former deputy foreign minister, told The Media Line. “Secondly, a moral victory when the ICJ demanded an unconditional release of the hostages,” added Ayalon.

On the other hand, Ayalon argued that the decision on Friday was a diplomatic blow to Israel. “From a political and public diplomacy point of view, Israel suffered a setback just by associating its name with the ICJ and genocide.”

Tel Aviv resident Avi told The Media Line that Israel has nothing against the civilians in Gaza, but it’s most concerned about getting the hostages freed. “Usually, Israel allows hundreds of trucks every day into the Gaza Strip. We are not at war with the civilians; we are fighting a terrorist organization, and we are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and we hope for peace.”

Such provisional measures issued by the ICJ are legally binding, but it is not clear if Israel will comply with them.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called the ICJ ruling “an important development that contributes to isolating the occupation [Israel] and exposing its crimes in Gaza.”

According to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, “The ICJ judges assessed the facts and the law, they ruled in favor of humanity and international law.”

“We call on all states to ensure that all provisional measures ordered by the Court are implemented, including by Israel, the occupying power. This is a binding legal obligation,” he added.

Sami Abu Shehadeh, a Palestinian-Israeli politician, sees the ICJ ruling as a “big win.” He told The Media Line that it’s an important step toward holding Israel accountable. “The ICJ order is an important reminder that no state is above the law. It should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity,” he said.

After the ruling, the US repeated its position that Israel must “take all possible steps” to minimize harm to civilians, increase humanitarian aid, and curb “dehumanizing rhetoric.”

“We continue to believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Moein Odeh, a lawyer and human rights expert from East Jerusalem, told The Media Line that the ICJ decision “is not a cause for celebration” in Israel. Although the judges avoided issuing a cease-fire order, “their ruling will have an impact on the continuation of the war,” he added.

“The ruling will undoubtedly provide ammunition for increased pressure on Israel to end the war, for the boycott and sanctions campaign, and for various initiatives to isolate Israel. The ruling will also have a significant impact—at least in the short term—on Arab and Islamic countries that have considered normalization with Israel,” Odeh concluded.

Brought to you by www.srnnews.com