UN court says Israel must prevent genocide in Gaza

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The UN’s top court on Friday said Israel must do all it can to prevent genocide in its war with Hamas and allow aid into Gaza, as alarm has grown over Palestinians trapped by the conflict.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) also said Israel must facilitate “urgently needed” humanitarian aid to Gaza, in a landmark decision in a case that has sparked global attention.

The court based in The Hague — while stopping short of ordering an immediate halt to the almost four-month-old war — said Israel must do everything to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the Genocide Convention.

South Africa had brought the case against Israel, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, set up in the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the council of South Africa’s governing party erupted in cheers after the ruling, which the foreign ministry hailed as a “decisive victory”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the ruling as “outrageous”.

Netanyahu had already suggested he does not feel bound by the court, saying: “No-one will stop us — not The Hague, not the Axis of Evil and no-one else”.

Hamas hailed the decision as “an important development which contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza”.

Mushtana Musalim, a 56-year-old displaced man from Gaza City, expressed gratitude to South Africa for bringing the case against Israel.

“This in itself is an achievement in our favour, but going back in history, Israel has not recognised international decisions,” he told AFP. “As Palestinians, we support the step and we feel proud of it.”

Israeli flag carrier El Al said Friday ahead of the ruling that it would scrap direct flights to South Africa following “a significant fall in demand by Israeli travellers”.

The war started with the October 7 attack by Hamas that resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 26,083 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.