ICJ verdicts on Gaza have reined Israel in, but will it follow through?

Neither the Palestinians nor South Africa entirely prevailed from this. Following the Hamas strikes on October 7, 2018, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) impliedly recognized Israel’s right to self-defense by refusing to order Israel to stop its military campaign. However, the most powerful judicial body in the UN has acknowledged that the Gaza situation is dire. Importantly, it stated that the state of affairs was “at serious risk of deteriorating further” prior to the court’s eventual decision on the genocide allegation, a procedure that may take many years.

It therefore made a number of requests of Israel that were essentially consistent with the majority of the nine “provisional measures” that South Africa had requested. The 17 judges on the court decided by wide majorities that Israel should make every effort to prevent Palestinians from being killed, suffering severe physical or mental injury, living in conditions that are intolerable in Gaza, or purposefully stopping Palestinian pregnancies. It also mentioned examples from Israel’s president and defense minister to support the idea that Israel should “prevent and punish” public incitement to genocide.

In addition, a request for “immediate and effective measures” to solve Gaza’s humanitarian crisis was made. It was not a request for a ceasefire, but rather a set of demands that, if fulfilled, would fundamentally alter Israel’s military assault in Gaza. Israel fiercely disputes the accusation of genocide, claiming that Palestinian lives are being endangered by Hamas. It claims that because Hamas operates both inside and beneath Gaza’s heavily populated neighborhoods and camps for refugees, Israel has little chance of avoiding murdering civilians.

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