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ICJ effectively orders Israel to cease and desist: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2024-01-28 19:37
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Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rule on emergency measures against Israel following accusations by South Africa that the Israeli military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

A 17-judge panel of the International Court of Justice declared on Friday that Palestinians had a right to be protected from acts of genocide. They called on Israel to "take all measures within its power" to prevent acts which could fall foul of the 1948 Genocide Convention, and to allow the entry of desperately needed humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave.

There was no explicit call for an immediate halt to Israel's full-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip in the provisional ruling on the case brought against Israel by South Africa. But the court said it was deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering in Gaza, and "acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy unfolding in the region".

When innocent Palestinian people have been displaced from their homes, do not have provisions for maintaining subsistence, and are even placed at risk of being killed at any time, the ICJ's orders should function as a call for the international community to show enough concern for what has been happening to Palestinian people in Gaza.

The ICJ also ordered Israel to "prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide", and Hamas to release all the remaining hostages it is holding.

Israel was also ordered to preserve evidence related to allegations of genocide and report back to the court on its compliance with these measures in a month.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored in a statement that despite being a provisional judgment the "decisions of the Court are binding" and all parties should duly comply with the order from the Court.

As far as the security of Israel is concerned, the attacks on innocent Israelis and young people from other countries participating in a music gala in early October last year should definitely be condemned. But while Israel has the right to defend itself and bring the perpetrators to justice, it does not have the right to punish the Palestinian people as a whole for that.

The court pointed out that its provisional measures are necessary as there is "a real and imminent risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused to the rights" of Palestinians before the court issues its final decision, which is expected to take at least a year.

The ICJ's decisions cannot be appealed, but it has no way of enforcing them. In addition, it did not order Israel to end its military action in Gaza. Israel will certainly continue its military operation.

Yet, the ICJ's orders serve as a reminder to Israel that the world is watching what it is doing. The orders should also prompt some major countries to stop turning a blind eye to what Israel is doing in Gaza. They should stand with the rest of the international community and do whatever they can to mediate a cease-fire.

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