ICJ urges Israel to protect Palestinians and provide aid in Gaza conflict

The International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling, instructing Israel to immediately prevent harm to innocent Palestinians in Gaza. While stopping short of demanding an immediate cease-fire, the court mandated humanitarian assistance to victims. South Africa filed the case, alleging genocide in Israel’s military operation. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, welcomed the rejection of a cease-fire demand, while South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, emphasized the need for a cease-fire for the court’s order to be effective. The underlying allegations will proceed to a full hearing.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By Karin Matussek, Sarah Jacob and Hugo Miller

The United Nations’ top court told Israel it must act to immediately prevent the killing and harm to innocent Palestinians in an interim ruling that stopped short of demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza strip. 

The International Court of Justice also said that Israel must provide humanitarian assistance to victims of its assault, in a decision delivered in The Hague on Friday.

While its judgments are binding without recourse for appeal, the ICJ can’t itself enforce its orders and other countries have chosen to ignore them, notably Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

South Africa filed its case at the ICJ in December over Israel’s three-month military operation in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. South Africa argued that the military strikes constitute genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and also asked for a fast-track ruling that orders an immediate end to Israel’s attacks. The killing “is nothing short of destruction of Palestinian life,” Adila Hassim, a lawyer representing South Africa, said at a Jan. 11 hearing on the case.

“The catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the court renders its final judgment,” said Joan Donoghue, the ICJ’s presiding judge, as she explained the need for immediate action. The 17-judge panel only analyzed whether to impose interim orders on Israel while the case is pending. The underlying allegations will continue through to a full hearing.

Protesters outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague, on Jan. 26. Photographer: Ksenia Kuleshova/Bloomberg

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the court’s rejection of calls for a cease-fire, calling that an “outrageous demand to deny us this right.”

“The very claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians is not just false — it is abhorrent, and the willingness of the court to even discuss this is a disgrace that will not be erased for generations,” he said in a post on X. “We are fighting a just war, and we will continue it until absolute victory – until we defeat Hamas, return all our captives, and ensure that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.”

Read more: South Africa Wants Israel’s Gaza Strikes Ruled a Genocide: Q&A

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said at a press conference in The Hague that the court’s order doesn’t work without a cease-fire.

“I hoped for it,” she said. “The fact of delivering humanitarian aid, the fact of taking measures that reduce the levels of harm against persons who have no role in what Israel is combating, for me requires a cease-fire.”

Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, launched a surprise incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking many hostage. Netanyahu declared the nation “at war” and retaliated with mass air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

South Africa, which has been a critic of the military campaign in Gaza, alleges Israel’s actions violate the Genocide Convention, due to the loss of Palestinian lives, displacement and humanitarian suffering since the start of the conflict. The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed, a figure that the court also cited in its ruling. Israel “did not start and did not want” a war, Tal Becker, a lawyer for the nation said a public hearing at the court earlier this month.  

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor can investigate and charge individuals with genocide, has received referrals from multiple countries including South Africa, Mexico and Chile on the situation in Palestine. Israel doesn’t recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction but the ‘State of Palestine’ is listed as party to the court’s statute. 

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Read also:

Visited 159 times, 4 visit(s) today

Read More


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here