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South Africa: Israel ignoring ICJ order to halt Gaza deaths

South Africa says Israel is already ignoring UN court ruling ordering it to prevent deaths in Gaza
4 min read
01 February, 2024
With hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed since the ICJ ruling against Israel, South Africa say it is clear that Tel Aviv is ignoring the court.
Foreign minister Naledi Pandor says that South Africa country will propose measures to the UN to stop Israel killing civilians [Getty]

Israel has ignored the ruling by the U.N.'s top court last week by killing hundreds more civilians in a matter of days in Gaza, South Africa’s foreign minister said Wednesday. Additionally, she asked why an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been issued in a case South Africa filed at the separate International Criminal Court (ICC).

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa would “look at proposing other measures to the global community” in a bid to stop Israel killing civilians during its war in Gaza against Hamas militants, but didn't go into details.

The preliminary ruling by the U.N.’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) in South Africa's case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide against Palestinians in the territory. It stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. It also ruled Israel must urgently get basic humanitarian aid to Gaza and submit a report on steps taken to abide by the ruling within a month.

A top official in South Africa's foreign ministry has said the country hopes that Friday's ruling, and whether Israel is abiding by it, will be discussed on a wider level at the United Nations, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Since the ruling, Israel has continued its military offensive and hundreds more Palestinians have been killed, with over 100 killed in the territory in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of Palestinian deaths in the war to more than 27,000.

“I can’t be dishonest. I believe the rulings of the court have been ignored,” South Africa's foreign minister said. “Hundreds of people have been killed in the last three or four days. And clearly Israel believes it has license to do as it wishes.”

Pandor said there was a danger of the world doing nothing to stop the civilian casualties in Gaza and said similar inaction contributed to the horrific death toll in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, when more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in the East African country.

“We are allowing this to happen again, right before our eyes, on our TV screens,” Pandor said.

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The court's ruling is binding on Israel, and the country could face U.N. sanctions if it is found to be breaching its orders, although any sanctions may be vetoed by close ally the United States.

Netanyahu has said that Israel “will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.” 

Israel claims it has abided by international law and is doing its best to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. It says it has killed more than 9,000 militants and accuses Hamas of embedding in civilian areas, making it difficult to avoid civilian casualties.

South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule, which restricted most Black people to “homelands” before ending in 1994.

Pandor also said South Africa was eager to pursue the case it has lodged with the separate International Criminal Court, an indication the country will continue its legal pressure on Israel. In the ICC case, South Africa accuses Netanyahu of war crimes and asks the court to order his arrest.

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The ICJ and ICC are both based in The Hague but deal with different cases. The ICJ is a U.N. court that decides disputes between countries. The ICC prosecutes individuals.

A South African delegation met with the ICC court president and prosecutor while in The Hague last week for the ICJ ruling, Pandor said, and stressed “our concern at the slow pace of action on matters that we referred to them as urgent matters.”

South Africa filed its case against Netanyahu at the ICC in November. The ICC is the same court that issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin last year over alleged war crimes relating to the removal of children from Ukraine.

“The (ICC) prosecutor assured us the matter is in hand and being looked at by his office,” Pandor said of South Africa's allegations against Netanyahu. “What I felt he didn’t answer me sufficiently on was, I asked him why he was able to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Putin while he is unable to do so for the Prime Minister of Israel. He couldn't answer and didn’t answer that question."

Israel, like Russia, is not a signatory to the treaty that created the ICC and does not recognize the court's authority.