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Top UN Court Declines To Order Cease-Fire In Gaza, Demands Israel Limit Civilian Deaths

The United Nations’ top court stopped short Friday of ordering a cease-fire in Gaza in a genocide case but demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive in the tiny coastal enclave.

South Africa brought the case, which goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, and had asked the court to order Israel to halt its operation.

In the highly anticipated decision made by a panel of 17 judges, the International Court of Justice decided not to throw out the case — and ordered six so-called provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

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

Friday’s decision is only an interim one; it could take years for the full case brought by South Africa to be considered. Israel rejects the genocide accusation and had asked the court to throw the charges out.

While the case winds its way through the court, South Africa has asked the judges “as a matter of extreme urgency” to impose provisional measures.

Top of the South African list was a request for the court to order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.” But the court declined to do that.

South Africa also asked for Israel to take “reasonable measures” to prevent genocide and allow access for desperately needed aid.

The court ruled that Israel must try to limit death and damage.

In a statement Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he hoped the decision would “include immediate action to stop the aggression and genocide against our people in the Gaza Strip … and a rapid flow of relief aid to save the hungry, wounded and sick from the threat of slow death that threatens them.”

On Thursday, Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy had said that Israel expected the court to toss out the “spurious and specious charges.”

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased. But this time, it took the rare step of sending a high-level legal team — a sign of how seriously it regards the case and likely the fear that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing.

An Israeli official said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddled with top legal, diplomatic and security officials on Thursday in anticipation of the ruling. He said Israel is confident in its case but discussed “all scenarios.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential meetings.

Ahead of the ruling, Marieke de Hoon, an associate professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, said she thought the court was unlikely to throw the case out since the legal bar South Africa has to clear at this early stage is lower than the one that would be applied for ruling on the merits of the accusation.

“The standard … is not, has there been genocide? But a lower standard,” she said. “Is it plausible that there could have been a risk of genocide that would invoke Israel’s responsibility to prevent genocide?”

But De Hoon also did not expect the world court to order an end to Israel’s military operation.

“I think that they will shy away from actually calling for a full cease-fire, because I think they will find that beyond their abilities right now,” she said in a telephone interview.

Provisional measures by the world court are legally binding, but it is not clear if Israel will comply with them.

How the U.S., Israel’s top ally, responds to any order will be key, since it wields veto power at the U.N. Security Council and thus could block measures there aimed at forcing Israel’s compliance.

The U.S. has said Israel has the right to defend itself, but also spoken about the need for the country to protect civilians in Gaza and allow more aid in.

The genocide case strikes at the national identity of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

South Africa’s own identity is key to it bringing the case. Its governing party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule, which restricted most Black people to “homelands” before ending in 1994.


2 Responses

  1. Top UN Court Declines To Order Cease-Fire Must be, that they are scared to loose American financial funding, unless of-course 1 of the Judges in this court knows someone in these liberal circles who tragically was taken hostage or assassinated on 10/7

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