Today, January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) urged Israel to prevent “genocide in Gaza.” This ruling is the first on the application filed a month ago by South Africa, which the court upheld, rejecting Israel’s request to dismiss it. The International Court’s decision called for the prevention and punishment of any acts that incite genocide in Gaza.
The court further notes that it is “fully aware of the scale of the human tragedy unfolding in the region” and demands that Israel must allow humanitarian aid to enter. Although it did not order a ceasefire, which was one of the measures called for in the South African lawsuit, the UN court issued an important ruling, by 15 votes to two, warning Israel of its responsibility to prevent systematic extermination in the Gaza Strip.
The court’s decision is provisional and the future legal path may take years, so it does not mean that it will necessarily bring about imminent change in the region.
Palestinians with bittersweet feelings
The Palestinian National Authority has welcomed the UN court’s ruling, noting that such rulings are binding. “Palestine welcomes the interim measures ordered by the ICJ against Israel. The judges analyzed the facts and the law and ruled in favor of humanity and international law,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki commented in a video.
“We call on all states to ensure that all interim measures ordered by the Court are implemented, including Israel, the occupying power,” the Palestinian minister added.
On a political level, Palestinian disappointment was evident on the streets. This sentiment stemmed from the court’s ruling, which did not include the ceasefire order advocated by South Africa. Meanwhile, the court’s veiled reference to ‘genocide’ offers a glimmer of hope. Although the ruling does not confirm its existence, it paves the way for future investigations into the matter. Additionally, it serves as a caution to Jewish authorities regarding their immediate actions.
Colombia supported the South African demand
Colombia backed South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel, filed in late December. South Africa, enduring decades of apartheid targeting its black majority, presented the case to the United Nations’ top court. Initial hearings occurred on January 11 and 12, despite Israel’s efforts to have the claim dismissed.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro was among the first to condemn Israel’s military response against Palestinian civilians. Despite facing sharp criticism from the conservative opposition at home, Colombia persists in its confrontation with the Israeli government.
Petro has reacted to the court’s ruling by describing it as a “triumph of humanity”. For the president, “what is needed is a ceasefire for the full release of the hostages on both sides”.
Today’s ruling by the international tribunal has left many parties dissatisfied, a typical outcome in decisions involving the complex and challenging aspects of the Middle Eastern conflict. Analysts familiar with the situation note that the ruling acts as a warning to Israel and adds credibility to Palestinian claims.
The Israeli operation in Gaza
On October 7, 2023, a deadly and barbaric surprise attack was carried out by Hamas on Israeli civilians, resulting in the loss of 1,200 lives, including many teenagers, children and babies, and the abduction of an additional 240 individuals. Following this event, the Israeli state’s response, intended to neutralise Hamas, led to significant casualties, estimated at over 26,000, among Palestinian civilians being used by Hamas as human shields, along with widespread destruction of infrastructure. This escalation of violence also resulted in the displacement of a substantial portion of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.
According to international human rights agencies, two-thirds of the deceased are women and children, constituting the non-combatant population. The Israeli government, however, contends that approximately 9,000 of those killed were members of the Hamas group.
Since the onset of military operations in the Gaza Strip, various countries have urged a ceasefire. Among them, Colombia has labeled Israel’s actions in Palestinian territories as ‘genocide’, drawing parallels with the methods employed ‘by the Nazis’ against Jews in the Second World War.