ICJ agrees with SA and orders Israel to ensure more aid reaches Gaza

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Written By Maya Cantina

The ICJ said because of Israel’s failure to comply with its initial order, it was necessary for the Court to indicate further provisional measures.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has agreed with South Africa’s assertion that the situation in Gaza has deteriorated significantly since the initial order on 26 January, which Israel has failed to comply with.

The UN’s top court on Thursday granted South Africa’s urgent request to enforce additional emergency measures against Israel, accusing it of violating existing measures and causing irreparable harm to the rights invoked by Pretoria under the 1948 Genocide Convention in respect of the ongoing siege of Gaza.

In its application, South Africa warned that Palestinians in Gaza are in dire straits and that it was  “compelled to return to the Court in light of the new facts and changes in the situation in Gaza — particularly the situation of widespread starvation.”

ICJ order  

The World Court said because of Israel’s failure to comply with its initial order in January, it was necessary for the Court to indicate further provisional measures.

“Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, as noted in the Order of 26 January, 2024, but that famine is setting in, with at least 31 people, including 27 children, having already died of malnutrition and dehydration”.

The Court unanimously ordered Israel to take measures, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into Gaza to tackle crippling shortages in the war-ravaged enclave.

By fifteen votes to one (Judge ad hoc Barak of Israel dissenting), the Court also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, “including by preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

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Report back

The ICJ told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

“Submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month as from the date of this order.”

The ICJ said the provisional measures supplement those of 26 January, which ordered Israel to refrain from committing genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza and to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in Gaza.

New strategies

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the impact of the ICJ’s order is significant.

Magwenya said the changing circumstances in Gaza warrant the implementation of new strategies.

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks but also by disease and starvation indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist. The most effective way to uphold this right is through prevention. The Court’s actions include specific responsibilities to prevent genocide.

“As a number of judges pointed out, these responsibilities can only be fulfilled by halting military operations in Gaza and adhering to the court’s directives. If there is non-compliance, the global community must ensure adherence when it comes to the sanctity of humanity,” Magwenya said.

Gaza death toll

The death toll in Gaza since 7 October, 2023 has now reached over 32 552 Palestinians, mostly women and children, killed and 74 980 others injured.

Israel has pounded Gaza since a cross-border attack by Hamas, which Tel Aviv said killed nearly 1 200 people.

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