The International Court of Justice has voted that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide and reduce the harm suffered by Palestinian civilians.
The court also condemned Hamas and demanded the release of all hostages seized on October 7.
The terror group is not a signatory to the Genocide Convention and cannot be brought to the ICJ, however.
ICJ President Joan Donoghue issued a bleak report of the conditions created by Israel’s campaign in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.
Israel must also take measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide, preserve evidence of alleged genocide, and to produce a report for the court on those demands in one month, the ICJ declared.
The court did not rule on whether or not Israel has committed acts of genocide.
South Africa filed charges against Israel over alleged breaches of the Genocide Convention, which was created in the wake of the Holocaust.
The nation demanded an emergency injunction to protect Palestinians from “irreparable harm” by suspending the IDF’s campaign in Gaza.
The court is “acutely aware” of the human tragedy unfolding in the region, Donoghue said.
Palestinians constitute a national or ethnic group, and therefore are entitled to the protection of the Genocide Convention, she said, while the Israeli military has engaged in the forcible displacement of Gazan civilians.
Donoghue added that figures from the Hamas-run health ministry, which could not be externally verified, indicate that 25,700 Palestinians have been killed, with 63,000 injuries suffered, and approximately 1.7 million persons internally displaced since October 7.
The Court took note of remarks made earlier this month by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, who said: “Gaza has become a place of death and despair… areas where civilians were told to relocate for their safety have come under attack… Gaza has become uninhabitable.”
The ICJ has also taken note of statements made by senior Israeli officials that “dehumanise” Palestinians.
These included remarks by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant that he had “released all restraints” on the IDF’s campaign.
The court drew attention to the risk that Gaza could soon decline further and collapse into further humanitarian tragedy.
Israel’s chief prosecutor had stated that calls for the harm of civilians were illegal, Donoghue said, but that would not materially affect the safety of Gazans in time.
The court therefore ruled that Israel must take a series of measures to protect Palestinian civilians.
The ICJ, which is the chief court of the United Nations, adjudicates disputes between states and issues legally binding rulings.
It has no power to enforce its decisions, however, and a previous ruling against Russia was ignored by Vladamir Putin’s regime.
The court’s verdict will have significant ramifications for Israel’s international legitimacy and support, however.
The Israeli government had signaled that it was confident before the court’s ruling was declared.
Spokesman Elon Levy said: "We of course expect it [the court] to completely dismiss the false and misleading accusations made by South Africa."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously declared that Israel would not allow international law to restrain its campaign in Gaza.
“Nobody will stop us — not The Hague, not the [Iran-led] axis of evil and not anybody else,” he said earlier this month. “The hypocritical onslaught at The Hague against the state of the Jews that arose from the ashes of the Holocaust… is a moral low point in the history of nations.”
Around 1,200 Israelis were killed on October 7 when Hamas stormed into the Jewish state, attacked IDF bases, massacred civilians, and destroyed a string of kibbutzes.
25,000 Palestinian civilians have since been killed in Gaza, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Supporters of Israel condemned the court’s decision as “a victory for terrorists” and a blow to the Jewish state’s right to defend itself.
Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress said: “Today marks a dark day in the pursuit of justice as we express our deep disappointment and lament the decision of the International Court of Justice to grant provisional measures in response to South Africa’s false allegation that Israel is carrying out acts of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
"We stress our certainty that, on the merits, the court will find that Israel is not violating the Genocide Convention in its final ruling.”
The South African government said that the ruling marked a “significant victory” for international law and welcomed the provisional measures announced.