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Is Israel complying with the ICJ genocide ruling on Gaza?

One week on, is Israel complying with the ICJ genocide ruling on Gaza?
5 min read
03 February, 2024
A week has passed since the ICJ ruled against Israel's war on Gaza, but has Israel complied with any of the ordered measures?
Israel has continued to conduct deadly and destructive attacks since last week's ICJ ruling [Getty]

One week has passed since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made a ruling in the genocide case South Africa lodged against Israel last December.

In its ruling on 26 January, the court ordered Israel to comply with six provisional measures. These include taking every necessary step to avert genocide, curbing and penalising any direct and overt calls to genocide, and swiftly implementing measures to guarantee access to essential services and humanitarian assistance for Gaza’s civilian population.

Additionally, the ICJ demanded Israel safeguard genocide evidence and report on its compliance within a month.

Yet, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday that Israel has repeatedly defied the court’s orders, escalating violence by killing hundreds of civilians in Gaza in mere days.

The New Arab looks at whether Israel is actually complying with the ICJ’s orders, one week after they were made.

Has Israel taken measures to prevent genocidal acts?

Israel has carried on its offensive in the same way it did prior to the court orders a week ago.

Since 26 January, Israel has killed almost 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave's health ministry.

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As has been the case throughout the Israeli onslaught that began on 7 October, the vast majority of those killed have been civilians.

On Friday, several civilians were killed as Israel intensified strikes of civilian neighbourhoods in Rafah, as reported by WAFA, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority.

In another clear violation of the ruling, Israel is continuing to target civil infrastructure, including hospitals, further burdening Gaza's struggling healthcare system and punishing civilians.

This week, the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza faced attacks, with reports of tanks striking parts of Khan Younis – notably around Nasser Hospital, the largest operational hospital in southern Gaza.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has also documented the Israeli siege of the Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis that by Friday had been held for 11 straight days.

The PRCS has said the hospital is becoming a "living graveyard", with 15 patients dying and being buried in makeshift graves in its courtyard since the siege began.

Israeli forces also stormed the hospital on Thursday, with the PRCS documenting heavy gunfire at the entrance to the hospital as medical staff continued to work on patients.

Several displaced people sheltering in the hospital were injured when a ceiling collapsed after intense Israeli shelling in and around the hospital complex.

Has Israel escalated potential acts of genocidal violence since then?

Not only is Israel continuing its current war on Gaza, but it is expanding it.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who was named in the ICJ ruling for inciting genocide against Palestinians, said on Thursday that Israel now plans to assault Rafah, the border city in the south of the enclave.

Rafah has become a last refuge for over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, with only the tightly sealed border with Egypt lying beyond it.

If Israel carries out an assault on the city with the same ferocity as its attacks on Gaza City and Khan Younis, it could potentially lead to a huge amount of civilian casualties and the destruction of yet more vital civil infrastructure.

Has Israel prevented and punished officials who make calls to genocide?

The compilation of Israeli officials inciting genocide against Gaza, from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s referencing of "Amalek" to President Isaac Herzog saying that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, was considered to be one of the strongest parts of South Africa’s case against Israel.

Since the ruling, not a single Israeli official has been prosecuted or even investigated for any comment that could fall under incitement to genocide.

In fact, numerous government ministers, among them the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, participated in a conference held in Jerusalem last Sunday calling for the settlement of Gaza with Jewish settlers.

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Has Israel ensured humanitarian aid can easily enter Gaza?

On the same day that the ICJ ordered Israel to ensure basic services and humanitarian aid for civilians, Tel Aviv accused 12 UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) employees of involvement in the 7 October attacks on southern Israel.

Consequently, major donors like the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany suspended their funding to UNRWA, with Israeli officials openly calling for the destruction of what is the main humanitarian agency in Gaza.

This has raised concerns that UNRWA could collapse by the end of February, potentially leading to an unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

What if Israel fails to comply with the ICJ’s ruling?

The ICJ has full legal authority, and if, in one month’s time, Israel fails to submit a report showing it has adequately lived up to its ruling, prosecution could apply. 

At the very worst, UN sanctions could be imposed on Tel Aviv.

However, sanctioning Israel would require complete consensus in the UN Security Council. The US would almost certainly veto any attempt to prosecute and then duly sanction Israel, regardless of what the ICJ says.

The cover provided to it by the US at the UN is likely why Israel has not heeded a single word of the ruling against it by the ICJ one week on, and why it is unlikely to do so in the future.