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March 1, 2024

Israel Defiant After UN Court Orders Steps to Prevent Gaza Killings

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Jan 29, 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Thursday that Israel must take steps to prevent further killings and injuries in Gaza, stopping short of deciding on accusations of genocide. The case was brought by South Africa and the Palestinian Authority in late 2021.

ICJ Orders Provisional Measures

In a 13-2 majority interim judgement, the United Nations’ highest court ordered Israel to “review the rules of engagement” for its military operations in Gaza. It said these must comply with international humanitarian laws and human rights obligations. The measures are legally binding, but the court has no direct means of enforcement.

The ICJ president, US judge Joan Donoghue, specified:

Israel must “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of war crimes by its organs, agents or persons within its control or acting on its instructions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

While the ICJ did not rule definitively on the underlying allegation of genocide, the language of the court was strong. The summary stated Israel had the “obligation to prevent conduct that may constitute genocide”.

Dissenting Voices

Two judges dissented – one from Uganda and another from Brazil. The Ugandan representative argued that Israel had already taken preventative steps and should not face accusations without “clear evidence”.

Israeli officials echoed this view. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared he would “continue to act according to what is required to ensure the security of Israeli citizens.” Other government figures pledged to disregard an “antisemitic” and “hypocritical” ruling.

Far-right Israeli politicians went further, with one MP labelling it a “blood libel”. The country maintains it complies with international law during military operations and already investigates alleged violations.

What Next?

  • The ICJ will now proceed to hear full arguments from both sides before deciding on the merits of the case. This could take years.
  • In the meantime, Israel must file initial reports with the court within three months explaining how it is complying with the provisional measures. It must then submit subsequent reports every six months.
  • South Africa welcomed the judgement, while the Palestinian Authority said it marked an “historic day” in their quest for justice. But critics argue the ruling is largely symbolic without enforcement power.

Background to the Crisis

Tensions between Israel and militant groups in Gaza have simmered for years, occasionally erupting into open conflict costing many lives:

  • Israel, along with Egypt, imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Islamist group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian faction Fatah in 2007. Israel claims this is needed to stop arms smuggling.
  • A major round of hostilities took place in 2008-2009, then further escalations in 2012, 2014 and 2021 leading to thousands of deaths overall and huge damage in Gaza. Rocket fire and airstrikes are exchanged frequently.
  • Palestinians see the blockade as illegal collective punishment which strangles Gaza’s economy and costs livelihoods. Efforts by the UN and others to broker lasting ceasefires have so far failed.

World Reacts to Ruling

The ICJ decision elicited mixed reactions globally:

Cautious Hope

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to implement the legally binding ruling, “which represents an opportunity to take concrete steps” towards peace.
  • U.S. and European leaders tread carefully, stressing Israel’s right to self-defence while pushing both sides to avoid civilian deaths. President Kamala Harris affirmed America’s “unwavering commitment to Israel” but said more must be done to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian situation.
  • Global rights groups largely welcomed the focus on preventing civilian casualties. But some lamented that the judges did not demand an immediate end to hostilities.
Entity Reaction
UN Chief Cautiously hopeful, urges compliance
U.S. Government Affirms support for Israel; wants humanitarian improvements
Human Rights Groups Welcome focus on protecting civilians but want immediate end to violence

Strong Condemnation

  • Israeli allies denounced the ruling. Britain and France said while civilian deaths were “deeply regrettable”, Israel had faced repeated terror attacks from Gaza militant groups.
  • The Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation strongly backed the ICJ position, accusing the international community of double standards in failing to protect Palestinian lives.
Entity Reaction
Israel’s Western Allies Condemn militant attacks on Israel; regret civilian deaths
Arab States and Muslim Countries Accuse West of double standards on Palestinian lives

What’s Next?

With tensions still simmering between Israel and Gaza militants, several scenarios are possible after this legal bombshell:

Increased Political Pressure

  • The scathing interim judgement undeniably isolates Israel on the world stage. This could bolster campaigns like the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
  • But Israel retains backing from powerful allies who provide military funding and diplomatic cover, limiting the tangible impact.
  • Left-leaning parties around the world may ramp up opposition in a show of solidarity with Palestinians. This could damage right-wing governments in Israel and elsewhere.

Military Escalation

  • Hardliners in Israel could push for heavier strikes on Gaza in defiance of world opinion. But risks mass international condemnation.
  • Alternatively, criticism may restrain Israel’s military thinking – belatedly avoiding civilian deaths to mitigate legal exposure.
  • For militants, the ruling may perversely offer incentive to bait Israel into disproportionate responses.

Impetus for Peace Talks?

  • Legal setback could jolt sides into conflict resolution, if heavyweight mediators get involved.
  • But previous peace initiatives have all collapsed with both Israelis and Palestinians accusing each other of bad faith.

The ICJ’s dramatic intervention has underscored that the situation in Gaza cannot be ignored. Yet past violence and failed negotiations offer little immediate hope that this latest legal salvo will bring lasting change.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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