Judges in The Hague are set to give a preliminary ruling on Friday in the International Court of Justice, as the world watches to see whether the judges will order a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At a two-day hearing this month, South Africa asked the court to issue provisional measures requiring Israel to immediately end its military campaign in Gaza, which began after the 7 October attacks by Hamas. The death toll from the assault on Gaza stands at almost 26,000 – mostly women and children – with a further 7,000 presumed dead under the rubble and about 85% of the Palestinian territory’s 2.3 million people displaced.
The court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed against; however, it has no enforcement powers. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated confidently that “no one will stop us, not the Hague”. An adverse ruling could lead to sanctions and put pressure on Israel’s allies and military backers, including the US, to rein in their support.
South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, is flying to The Hague to be present for the decision, indicating confidence on the part of the claimant.
The case is centered on whether Israel’s military campaign against Hamas meets the definition of genocide as stipulated in the 1948 genocide convention. South African lawyer Adila Hassim alleges that genocidal acts committed by Israel include mass killings, causing serious harm to Palestinians, deliberately inflicting conditions to physically destroy Gaza, and assaulting Gaza’s healthcare system.
Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire, claiming that it will not stop until its goal of destroying Hamas is accomplished, which it believes is necessary for the safety of its citizens.
The International Court of Justice will not try individuals; it focuses on state cases only. The President of the court, Judge Joan Donoghue from the US, is expected to read out the decision at 1 pm local time on Friday.
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