The international court of justice in The Hague is scheduled to issue a preliminary decision on Friday regarding South Africa’s claim that Israel committed genocide in Gaza. The global community is eagerly awaiting the outcome and potential ceasefire orders from the judges.
During a two-day hearing in the current month, South Africa requested that the court issue temporary measures mandating Israel to promptly cease its military operation in Gaza, which was initiated following the Hamas attacks on October 7th.
Approximately 1,200 Israeli citizens were lost in the attacks on October 7th, with 240 being held captive. It is believed that 129 of those hostages are still being held. The death count in Gaza has reached almost 26,000, with the majority being women and children. An additional 7,000 people are presumed dead, buried under rubble. It is estimated that 85% of the Palestinian population, which is 2.3 million people, have been forced to leave their homes.
The decisions made by the court are conclusive and cannot be challenged, but the court does not have the authority to enforce its decisions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that “no one can prevent us from taking action, not even the Hague.” However, a negative ruling could result in sanctions and increase pressure on Israel’s allies and military supporters, such as the US, who have previously dismissed the case as lacking merit, to control their actions.
On Thursday, Eylon Levy, the government spokesperson for Israel, expressed optimism about the result. He told journalists, “We anticipate that the ICJ will dismiss these false and deceptive accusations.”
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, is traveling to The Hague to attend the decision, indicating the claimant’s confidence as well.
The 1948 convention on genocide, created following the mass killing of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, states that it is “actions carried out with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” In order for temporary measures to be put in place, it is not required to provide evidence of actions that amount to genocide, but rather that some of the alleged actions could potentially fall under the convention.
During the court proceedings, Adila Hassim, a lawyer from South Africa, claimed that Israel’s actions were genocidal in nature. These actions included the widespread killing of Palestinians, resulting in severe physical and psychological harm, purposely creating living conditions that would lead to the destruction of Gaza, and attacking Gaza’s healthcare system through military means.
The person stated in court that only a court order could end the suffering, and without provisional measures, the atrocities would persist. The Israel Defense Forces have indicated their intention to continue this course of action for at least a year.
In addition to an instant cessation of hostilities, South Africa also requested that the court mandate measures to prevent the denial of access to sufficient food and water, humanitarian aid, and medical resources and support.
The nation of Israel has declined requests for a pause in fighting, stating that it will not halt its actions until it has successfully eliminated Hamas. This is seen as the only means of guaranteeing the safety of its citizens.
According to Tal Becker, the legal advisor for the Israeli foreign ministry, Israel has the right to take necessary actions to protect its citizens and secure the release of hostages in response to the recent attacks from Gaza. This right is unquestionable, especially in light of Hamas’ stated intention to continue these attacks.
At 1pm local time (1200 GMT), the decision will be announced by Joan Donoghue, the American judge and president of the court.
In contrast to the international criminal court, which is looking into accusations of war crimes committed by both Hamas and Israel, the ICJ solely handles cases involving states and not individuals.