ICJ rules Israel must prevent acts of genocide in Gaza: Key takeaways

The International Court of Justice hand down a highly anticipated ruling in South Africa’s case against Israel over genocidal acts in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has delivered its highly anticipated interim ruling in South Africa’s case against Israel over alleged genocidal acts in Gaza.

Here are the highlights of the provisional measures ordered on Friday by the court in a case that has drawn global interest:

Genocide prevention

The World Court ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide as it wages war against the Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.

In the ruling, 15 of the 17 judges on the ICJ voted for emergency measures that covered most of what South African had 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 26,000 Palestinians in nearly four months, according to Gaza health authorities. The war has now carried on for more than 100 days since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,139 people and taking 240 captive.

No ceasefire

The court stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire. Less than two years ago in March 2022, it had ordered Russia to halt its war on Ukraine after Kyiv took Moscow to the ICJ.

On Friday, the ICJ refrained from repeating the interim measures it had ordered against Russia — which Moscow has ignored.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, who was at the court when the judges delivered their ruling, said she had been “hoping” for the provisional measures to include the order of a ceasefire.

But Pandor also argued that she did not see how Israel could implement the measures directed by the ICJ without a ceasefire.


ICJ has jurisdiction

Israel had insisted in its arguments this month that the ICJ did not have jurisdiction in the case. But on Friday, Judge Joan Donoghue, the president of the ICJ, said the court had concluded that it could rule on the matter and specifically that it could order provisional measures.

She highlighted South Africa’s prior public statements suggesting that Israel might have violated its commitments under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Additionally, Donoghue pointed out that Israel has consistently rejected any allegations of genocide in Gaza. She highlighted the opposing positions held by the involved parties to underline that a dispute exists between the two parties. Donoghue said that, based on the evidence presented, some of the acts and omissions by Israel and its officials seem to fall within the scope of the Genocide Convention.

not for me, but it might be a matter of time.
A Palestinian supporter demonstrates outside the International Court of Justice [Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters]

Prevent and punish incitement to genocide in Gaza

The court also warned Israel to “take all measures in its power to prevent” acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention, set up as the world grappled with the horrors of the Holocaust.

It also said Israel should “prevent and punish” any incitement to genocide.

South Africa has accused Israel of “genocidal” acts intended to cause the “destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”.

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

Israel must report back within one month

The judges ruled that Israel must report to the court within a month on what it is doing to uphold the order to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.

Donoghue said the ruling creates international legal obligations for Israel.

Allow humanitarian aid into the strip

The court also ruled Israel must promptly implement “immediate and effective” measures to guarantee the delivery of urgently required humanitarian aid and basic services to Gaza.

Hamas, which has governed Gaza for the past 16 years, hailed the court’s “important” ruling, saying it “contributes to isolating Israel”.

“The [International] Court of Justice’s decision is an important development which contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza,” it said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies