Home News Gaza Top U.N. Court Stops Short of Ordering Ceasefire in Gaza and Demands Israel Contain Deaths

Top U.N. Court Stops Short of Ordering Ceasefire in Gaza and Demands Israel Contain Deaths

Top U.N. Court Stops Short of Ordering Ceasefire in Gaza and Demands Israel Contain Deaths
Gilad Noam, Israel’s Deputy Attorney-General for International Affairs, attends the session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

The United Nations’ top court stopped short Friday of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza in a genocide case but demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military operation.

South Africa brought the case 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 Authority 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.

In a statement Friday following the ruling, Netanyahu rejected the genocide claims as “outrageous” and vowed to press ahead with the war.

“Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people,” Netanyahu said. “Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself. The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected. The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.”

“Our war is against Hamas terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians,” the statement continued. “We will continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way, even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”

Itamar Ben Gvir, the right wing Israeli national security minister, was the first Israel official to comment after the court ended its reading.

“Hague shmague,” Ben Gvir wrote on X, reminiscent of former prime minister David Ben Gurion’s dismissal of the United Nations decades ago as “Um Shmum.”

Israel launched its massive air and ground assault on Gaza after Hamas terrorists stormed through Israeli communities on Oct. 7 killing some 1,200 people, mainly civilians and many in barbaric fashion, and abducting another 250.

The offensive in Gaza has decimated vast swaths of the territory and driven nearly 85% of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave said on Friday. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its death toll, but has said about two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

The Israeli military says at least 9,000 of those killed in the nearly four-month conflict are Hamas terrorists.

U.N. officials have expressed fears that even more people could die from disease, with at least one-quarter of the population facing starvation.

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 ceasefire, 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 has also spoken about the need for the country to protect civilians in Gaza and allow more aid in.

Withn reporting by wire services

Source: Hamodia


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