The UN’s top court on Friday said Israel must prevent genocidal acts in its war with Hamas and allow aid into Gaza, but stopped short of calling for an end to the fighting.
The International Court of Justice said Israel must facilitate “urgently needed” humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, which has been under relentless bombardment and siege since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the case as “outrageous” while Gaza’s Hamas rulers hailed the ICJ ruling, saying it “contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza”.
Soon after, the Islamist movement released a video showing three Israeli women held hostage in Gaza, two of whom said they were Israeli soldiers.
Also following the ruling, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it had sacked several employees accused by Israel of involvement in the October 7 attack.
The UN court based in The Hague — while refraining from ordering an immediate halt to the almost four-month-old Gaza war — said Israel must do everything to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the Genocide Convention.
South Africa, long a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, brought the case against Israel, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, set up after World War II and the Holocaust.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and senior officials erupted in cheers after the ruling, which is legally binding although the court has no enforcement mechanism.
“We expect Israel as a self-proclaimed democracy and a state that respects the rule of law to abide by the measures handed down,” Ramaphosa said, expressing hope the decision will lead to a new diplomatic push to end the war.
Speaking after the ruling, Netanyahu said the charge “is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it”.
Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality,” his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, and Israel’s ally the United States reiterated that genocide accusations were “unfounded”.
For the Palestinian Authority, the ruling showed that “no state is above the law”, and the European Union said it wanted immediate implementation of the court’s decision.