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UN top court rules Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, no ceasefire order issued

UN top court rules Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, no ceasefire order issued International Court of Justice (Getty Images)

The International Court of Justice rules Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza after South Africa accused the country of Palestinian mass killings amid its hot war with Hamas. However, the court did not demand Israel stop its military actions in the conflict-ridden area, and no immediate ceasefire call was issued as South Africa requested, according to CNN and AP News.

The court states that Israel must take immediate steps to make sure its military doesn't act in violation of the Genocide Convention.

“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,” the court’s president Joan E. Donoghue said.

South Africa accused Israel of breaking international laws on genocide in the Gaza war. The country is bound by the genocide convention, meaning it must not commit genocide and must work to prevent and punish it.

South Africa's part of the request to Israel was to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza”, similar to a restraining order, to calm the situation while the court looked into the case. But the court declined that part. It needs to decide if some of Israel's actions in Gaza could violate the genocide convention.

In a preliminary decision, the court ordered Israel to take actions to reduce the harm caused by its military campaign, prevent and punish incitement to genocide, and ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza. Although the court's decisions are mandatory, there is no direct way to make sure they are followed.

Israel's stance

In a hearing earlier, Israel rejected South Africa's claims, stating its actions in Gaza were self-defense, targeting Hamas, not civilians, and denying any genocidal intent. Israel argued that if any genocidal acts occurred, they were aimed at Israel when Hamas entered the country, killing over 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages. Israel's retaliation in Gaza has reportedly caused over 26,000 casualties, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu signaled before the ruling that Israel would not stop its war in Gaza.

Israel-Hamas war

On October 7, 2023, Hamas militants invaded Israel. In response, the Israeli army launched a military operation against the militants in the Gaza Strip. Earlier, during hostage exchange negotiations, Hamas militants released around 120 people, and Israel released a group of Palestinian prisoners.

Efforts by the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt to negotiate another release don't seem to be bringing a resolution. The fate of the hostages has become a big concern in Israel, causing widespread protests.

Netanyahu earlier rejected the terms Hamas proposed to stop the war and free the hostages, as they included Israel pulling out completely and allowing Hamas to stay in control in Gaza. He outlined 3 conditions for ending the war against the Palestinian militants of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.