ICJ Issues New Order in Genocide Case Against Israel

The World Court cited “exceptionally grave” developments, especially the “spread of famine and starvation,” in once again ordering Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

Citing “the worsening conditions of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza, in particular the spread of famine and starvation,” the International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Israel to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid into the embattled enclave and reiterated an earlier directive to prevent genocidal acts.

The ICJ’s new provisional order — which passed by a vote of 15-1, with Israeli Ad-Hoc Judge Aharon Barak dissenting — states that Israel must take “all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians throughout Gaza.”

This includes “food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and sanitation requirements, as well as medical supplies and medical care.”

The Hague-based court also ordered Israel to ensure “with immediate effect that its military does not commit acts which constitute a violation of any of the rights of the Palestinians in Gaza as a protected group” under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The court’s directive is a response to a March 6 request by South Africa, which filed the genocide case against Israel last December. 

On Jan. 26, the tribunal issued a provisional ruling that found Israel was plausibly committing genocide in Gaza and ordering the country to prevent genocidal acts.

A final ruling in the case could take years. ICJ rules permit the court to “revoke or modify any decision concerning provisional measures if, in its opinion, some change in the situation justifies such revocation or modification.”

Critics accuse Israel of ignoring the Jan. 26 order. South Africa said its March 6 request for modification was prompted by “horrific deaths from starvation of Palestinian children, including babies, brought about by Israel’s deliberate acts and omissions” including “concerted attempts” since Jan. 26 to ensure the defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) “and Israel’s attacks on starving Palestinians seeking to access what extremely limited humanitarian assistance Israel permits into Northern Gaza.”

The new ICJ order notes that “Israel rejects ‘in the strongest terms’ South Africa’s claims that incidents of starvation in Gaza are a direct result of its deliberate acts and omissions.”

However, the court found that “exceptionally grave” recent developments, including “at least 31 people, including 27 children, having already died of malnutrition and dehydration… constitute a change in the situation.”

Underscoring the severity of the crisis, a 5-year-old boy, identified by Al Jazeera as Mohammed Naeem al-Najar, died of malnutrition Thursday at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. 

This, as Israel is blocking UNRWA aid convoys from entering the northern part of the besieged strip.

The U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday published a draft report that found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, a move that came on the same day as the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in the ongoing war, a move enabled by a U.S. abstention.

More than 30 nations, as well as the Arab League, African Union, and other international organizations, have joined South Africa’s ICJ suit. 

On Wednesday, Ireland said it would intervene in the case after observing “blatant violation of international humanitarian law on a mass scale” by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Palestinian and international officials say that since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Israeli bombs and bullets have killed at least 32,552 Palestinians — most of them women and children — while wounding nearly 75,000 others.

At least 7,000 more Palestinians are missing and feared dead and buried beneath the rubble of hundreds of thousands of bombed-out buildings. Approximately 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been forcibly displaced. 

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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