ICJ will Rule on Israel’s Request to Halt Military Action in the Gaza War

The UN’s highest court is currently considering whether to issue urgent measures that would require Israel to cease its activities in Gaza.

The session of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday is focused on a case brought by South Africa, raising serious allegations against Israel.

Both countries provided testimony when the case began two weeks ago. Israel has strongly denied the accusation.

A ruling against Israel would not hold legal weight, but it would carry great political significance.

Over 25,000 Palestinians, including many women and children, have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been injured, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. This devastating toll comes as a result of Israel’s offensive, which was sparked by an unprecedented attack from the group.

The attack carried out by Hamas on 7 October resulted in the tragic loss of approximately 1,300 lives, with the majority being innocent civilians. The assailants also abducted approximately 250 individuals and transported them to Gaza as captives.

South Africa, a staunch supporter of the Palestinians, has requested the court to issue nine provisional measures. These measures include a request to halt military activity by Israel while the accusation of genocide is being considered. A decision on the matter is not anticipated for quite some time, potentially taking years.

Israel responded strongly to the genocide allegation, accusing South Africa of distorting the truth. The statement emphasised the importance of self-defense and clarified that the focus was on targeting Hamas fighters rather than Palestinian civilians.

The request made by South Africa has been deemed as unfounded and filled with baseless allegations of a non-existent genocide, according to the party involved.

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When making their ruling on Friday, the 17 judges, consisting of 15 permanent justices and one each from South Africa and Israel, will need to address two key questions:

  • Firstly, it is important to consider whether South Africa has fulfilled the necessary requirements to demonstrate that its claim against Israel can be addressed within the framework of the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention. The convention, which Israel and South Africa have signed, outlines the criteria for determining acts of genocide. During this early phase of the case, the expectations are not very high.
  • Secondly, it is important to consider the potential harm that may befall the Palestinian people in Gaza if Israel’s military action persists.

In addition, the judges have the freedom to consider requests beyond those made by South Africa. The panel could advise Israel to ensure its actions align with international law and to avoid any hindrance to the delivery of essential supplies like food, water, and medicines.

The ICJ, however, is limited to providing advisory opinions. Although the court’s rulings are theoretically legally binding, they lack enforceability. If the ruling on Friday does not favour Israel, it is highly likely that it will be disregarded.

This development could potentially increase the political pressure on Israel to actively pursue a ceasefire. It may also amplify the expectations placed on Israel’s key international allies to discreetly facilitate a resolution and ensure that much-needed humanitarian aid reaches the affected areas.

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