After many hearings brought about by South Africa’s initial charge, which accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza, the International Court of Justice has delivered its provisional verdict. With a majority of at least fifteen judges, the ICJ declared that Israel must start working to prevent genocide.
After the attacks on Israel by the militant group Hamas on October 7th, which killed over 1,200 people and resulted in a critical hostage situation with 240 hostages, Israel launched an all-out attack on the Gaza strip. In its attempts to target Hamas, however, Israel and its military have sparked major backlash, as according to ABC News, 11,500 children and over 27,000 people in Gaza have been killed by an onslaught of bombings and military attacks. While many large governments, particularly the United States government, have been supportive of Israel, providing weapons to continue with these attacks, South Africa launched a case against Israel, accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza citing their carrying out of airstrikes and their failure to prevent harm to civilians.
This case proceeded to the International Court of Justice, where South Africa used public statements, such as comments from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, to indicate genocidal intent. Israel fiercely opposed these allegations, claiming that Hamas is the one attempting to commit genocide, that Israel is only aiming to eliminate Hamas, not the Palestinian people, and that Israel’s army was acting “as morally as possible,” according to an overview from the BBC.
On January 26th, the court ordered an emergency measure. While the case South Africa brought was most insistent on a ceasefire, which would result in an end to the military attacks from Israel altogether, the International Court of Justice stopped short of this. Its official decree instead claimed that Israel must refrain from any act that could fall under the Genocide Convention by ensuring that troops do not commit any acts of genocide, according to Reuters. Israel was also told to prevent and punish any attempts to commit genocide, and to allow for humanitarian aid to come to Palestinian citizens. The court also expressed fears towards the hostage situation, ordering Hamas to release all hostages unconditionally.
Whether Israel will follow up on the ICJ’s requests is unknown. Though Israel is required to report how it will comply with this decree within a month of the decision, the process by which the International Court of Justice would validate their report would likely take years. Netanyahu claimed to be heavily committed to international law, but he also claimed that the whole lawsuit was an outrage, and that Israel would do anything necessary to defend itself from Hamas.
It is worth noting that the International Court of Justice, unlike the International Criminal Court, cannot enforce its declarations. Other ICJ verdicts, such as its verdict that Russia must immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine, have been ignored before. Whether Israel or Hamas will follow the International Court of Justice’s orders is up in the air now, and only they can fully decide how they will proceed.
Sophomore Chessie Bovasso is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.