International Court of Justice fails to call for Gaza ceasefire

International Court of Justice. (Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency)

The International Court of Justice has failed to order Israel to cease military actions in Gaza but has ruled that Tel Aviv must take measures to prevent acts of genocide.

In a highly-anticipated ruling in The Hague today, the UN’s top court also ruled that:

  • The court has jurisdiction to rule in the case.
  • Israel must prevent and punish incitement to genocide in the Strip.
  • Israel must allow humanitarian aid into the Strip.
  • Israel must more measures to protect Palestinians.
  • Some allegations against Israel fall within the provisions of the Genocide Convention.

The ICJ president, Judge Joan Donoghue, also said that sufficient evidence of dispute exists for a genocide case to be investigated and the court will not throw away the case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

The ICJ case was brought against Israel by South Africa in response to the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israel military.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister welcomed the ruling. Speaking to reporters, Naledi Pandor said South Africa “could not stand idly” by and would continue to observe the killing of thousands of Palestinians.

In response to a question on whether she was disappointed that the ruling did not order a ceasefire in Gaza, Pandor said she would have wanted the word “cessation” included.

“My hope is that we will begin to move toward a process where substantively a two-state solution is being discussed,” added Pandor.

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She also noted that Israel’s “powerful friends” should advise Tel Aviv to act in accordance with the order.

South Africa had asked the court to rule on interim measures, including that Israel immediately cease its military operations in Gaza, take reasonable measures to prevent the genocide of Palestinians, and ensure that displaced people return to their homes and have access to humanitarian assistance.

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip in the wake of an October 7 attack by Palestinian group Hamas. The Israeli response has killed 26,083 Palestinians and injured 64,487 others. Nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli war has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while more than half of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israeli/Palestinian reaction

Responding to the ruling, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said: “The ruling of the antisemitic court in The Hague confirms what was already known: this court does not seek justice but rather the persecution of the Jewish people,” Israel’s public broadcaster KAN reported.

“We must not heed decisions that threaten the existence of the State of Israel,” he said.

“We must continue to defeat the enemy until complete victory is achieved,” the Israeli minister added.

For its part, Hamas called on the international community to “oblige the enemy” to implement the court’s decisions and stop the ongoing “crime of genocide against our people.”

“This decision opens the way for enemy leaders to be held accountable for these crimes before the International Criminal Court, affirming the rights of our Palestinian people to self-determination, establishing their independent state, and returning to their lands and homes from which they were forcefully displaced, in line with international resolutions on this matter.

A Palestinian child in Gaza. Pic: AA

“We in the Hamas movement appreciate the genuine position of the Republic of South Africa, its support for our Palestinian people and the justice of their cause, its sincere endeavor to repel the aggression against the Gaza Strip, and its rejection of the brutal crimes of the occupation. We also extend our thanks to all countries that have expressed their support for this noble humanitarian action.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki welcomed provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice on Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

“We call on all states to ensure that all provisional measures ordered by the Court are implemented, including by Israel, the occupying power,” Al-Maliki stated, stressing that the world court’s decision, issued earlier on Friday, constituted a “binding legal obligation.”

“States now have clear legal obligations to stop Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people in Gaza and to make sure that they are not complicit,” he added.

Al-Maliki added that the international court’s decision 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 voiced Palestine’s “eternal gratitude to the people and government of South Africa for taking this bold step of active solidarity,” adding that Palestinian authorities would “continue to work closely with South Africa and other countries to ensure that justice is served.”

Reaction from UK

Advocacy group CAGE International said whilst any attempt to halt the genocide is welcome, it is disturbing that despite the overwhelming evidence the Court did not order an immediate ceasefire.

“The vulnerability of the ICJ to political pressure and the recognition that any order would be ignored by Israel and its western backers is evident in its failure to require a ceasefire. However the ruling highlights the sickening complicity, double standards and hypocrisy of politicians, journalists and commentators who have encouraged and sustained the genocide.

‘It is inevitable that the United States will continue to veto any resolution challenging Israel at the United Nations Security Council. However , today Israel and its western backers who are engaged in genocide stand more isolated than ever.

Pic: AA

‘It is imperative that communities and activists supporting Palestine utilise this moment to double down on highlighting the inherently racist and violent nature of Zionism, the complicity of many western states and politicians who continue to support the mass murder of an entire nation .

‘In the absence of reliable protection under international law, and the continuing supply of lethal weapons to Israel by the west, the Palestinian people are left with no choice but to exercise their inalienable right to self-defence.’

And the Islamic Human Rights Commission said the ruling falls far short of what is required to rein in the apartheid regime.

“While the decision acknowledges that Israel has a case to answer for genocide, the remedy fails to take account of the endemically violent nature of the Israeli beast. The court is effectively putting the fox in charge of a hen house it has mercilessly ravaged for over three months.

“This is outrageous considering that such an approach has already resulted in the massacre of over 25,000 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them women and children. How anyone with any sense of justice, let alone a court, cannot be moved to act to effectively prevent the wanton slaughter of innocent, defenceless civilians is a stain on the institution.

“The failure to protect the beleaguered Palestinians highlights just how deeply the instruments of justice have been colonised by the West and are exploited to expand and preserve their global power. They are clearly not fit for purpose.

“Over its 75 year history, Israel has violated dozens of UN resolutions without any consequences whatsoever. The immunity it enjoys from international bodies has emboldened it to act outside all moral and international legal norms. Today’s decision will embolden it even more.”

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