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Top UN court rules Israel must take ‘all measures’ to prevent genocide in Gaza

Pro-Palestine protest at the Hague
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The UN’s top court ordered Israel to “take all measures” to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for Israel to suspend its military campaign.

(CNN) — The UN’s top court ordered Israel to “take all measures” to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for Israel to suspend its military campaign in the war-torn enclave.

In a hearing in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Friday, the International Court of Justice said Israel must limit the death and destruction caused by its military campaign, as well as prevent and punish incitement to genocide, and to ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

South Africa had accused Israel of violating international laws on genocide in its war in Gaza, and wanted the court to order a halt in fighting.

Friday’s decision related only to South Africa’s request for emergency measures, which act like a restraining order while the Court considers the full merits of the full genocide case, which could take years.

“The catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the Court renders its final judgment,” Judge Joan Donoghue, the Court’s president, said Friday.

The Court’s 17-judge panel issued six emergency measures, ordering Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts which could fall foul of the Genocide Convention, and saying it must “ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit” any genocidal acts.

The Court also ordered Israel to “prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” as well as to “ensure the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance” in Gaza.

It said Israel must also preserve evidence related to allegations of genocide and submit a report in a month’s time on its compliance with these measures.

The Court’s decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no way of enforcing them. Israel earlier indicated it would not accept the ICJ’s orders.

Legal experts have said that, while the Court did not grant the most explosive of South Africa’s requests, in finding that Israel is “plausibly” violating laws on genocide, its decision is damning.

“Even though it is not a definitive verdict, it is a very significant rebuke for the armed forces of a democratic state that sometimes says it has the most moral army in the world,” Janina Dill, co-director at Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, told CNN.

In the initial hearing two weeks ago, South Africa said Israel’s leadership was “intent on destroying the Palestinians as a group in Gaza,” and that its aerial and ground assaults on the enclave aimed to “bring about the destruction of its Palestinian people.”

South Africa and Israel are both parties to the Genocide Convention, meaning they are obliged not to commit genocide and to prevent and punish it.

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Christian Edwards