The International Court of Justice order to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza. Urgently needed humanitarian aid urged to address life conditions.
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International Court of Justice Rules on Emergency Measures
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on January 26, 2024, on emergency measures against Israel following accusations by South Africa that the Israeli military operation in Gaza constitutes a state-led genocide. The U.N. top court stated that Israel must prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and facilitate urgently needed humanitarian aid into the besieged territory. The case has drawn global attention and has significant implications. The court urged Israel to refrain from any possible genocidal acts during its military operation in the Gaza Strip but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. This ruling has sparked a debate about enforcement and consequences.
ICJ Orders Israel to Prevent Genocidal Acts
The ICJ’s ruling mandates that Israel 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. At this stage, the ICJ is not determining whether Israel is actually committing genocide in Gaza — that process will take several years. However, Israel has been warned to take all measures in its power to prevent acts that could fall under the UN Genocide Convention, established in 1948 in response to the Nazi Holocaust. The court also emphasized that Israel should prevent and punish any incitement to genocide. This case was brought by South Africa, which has accused Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention. Over two days of hearings, lawyers from both sides debated the interpretation of this Convention. South Africa accused Israel of “genocidal” acts intended to cause the “destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group.” South Africa urged the court to order Israel to immediately suspend its military operations in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid to reach the civilians there.
Israel’s Response to the Accusations
Israel dismissed the accusations as a “grossly distorted story” and stated that if any genocidal acts had been carried out, they had been executed against Israel during the October 7 Hamas attacks. Israel’s top lawyer, Tal Becker, contended that Israel seeks to protect its people who are under attack on multiple fronts, rather than to destroy a people. The question now is whether the court’s rulings will be obeyed. Although its rulings are legally binding, it has no mechanism to enforce them and they are sometimes completely ignored. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already hinted that Israel would not abide by any ruling, stating “no one will stop us,” not even a verdict in The Hague. There is a debate about the potential impact and consequences of disobedience to the ICJ’s rulings.
Tangible Consequences and International Support
Experts believe that aside from the significant symbolic impact of the ruling, there could be tangible consequences on the ground. “It makes it much harder for other states to continue to support Israel in the face of a neutral third party finding there is a risk of genocide,” said Juliette McIntyre, an international law expert from the University of South Australia. “States may withdraw military or other support for Israel in order to avoid this,” she added. The October 7 Hamas attack resulted in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. 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 offensives since then, according to the Hamas government’s health ministry. There is a discussion about the possible impact on international support for Israel in light of the ICJ’s rulings.