UN court orders Israel to prevent GAZA genocide

THE HAGUE. Pro-Palestinian activists wave flags during a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024 after Presiding judge Joan Donoghue opened the session. Israel was set to hear whether the United Nations’ top court would order it to end its military offensive in Gaza during a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide. / AP
THE HAGUE. Pro-Palestinian activists wave flags during a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024 after Presiding judge Joan Donoghue opened the session. Israel was set to hear whether the United Nations’ top court would order it to end its military offensive in Gaza during a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide. / AP

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court on Friday, Jan. 26, ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

In a ruling that will keep Israel under the legal lens for years to come, the court offered little other comfort to Israeli leaders in a genocide case brought by South Africa that goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. The court’s half-dozen orders will be difficult to achieve without some sort of cease-fire or pause in the fighting.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” court President Joan E. Donoghue said.

Rebuke

The ruling amounted to an overwhelming rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct and added to mounting international pressure to halt the nearly four-month-old offensive that has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, decimated vast swaths of Gaza and driven nearly 85 percent of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Allowing the accusations to stand stung the government of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fact that the court was willing to discuss the genocide charges was a “mark of shame that will not be erased for generations.” He vowed to press ahead with the war.

The power of the ruling was magnified by its timing, coming on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Legally binding

Later Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that the top court’s rulings are legally binding and “trusts” that Israel will comply with its orders, including “to take all measures within its power” to prevent acts that would bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people.

“Those truly needing to stand trial are those that murdered and kidnapped children, women and the elderly,” former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, referring to Hamas militants who stormed through Israeli communities on Oct. 7 in the attack that set off the war. The assault killed some 1,200 people and resulted in another 250 being kidnapped.

The court also called on Hamas to release the hostages who are still in captivity. Hamas urged the international community to make Israel carry out the court’s orders.

The panel told Israel to submit a report on steps taken within a month.

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