South African FM: Mandela would be smiling in his grave

EU urges implementation of ICJ ruling; S. Africa, Hamas, Qatar, Turkey hail decision

US stands by assertion genocide claim unfounded, says that like court, it too has pushed Israel on civilian deaths, aid, incendiary comments; Hamas: Ruling helps ‘isolate Israel’

Residents react as they gather to watch the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling of the case against Israel brought by South Africa in The Hague at the Dullah Omar Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, on January 26, 2024, during an event organized by the South African ruling African National Congress party. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)
Residents react as they gather to watch the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling of the case against Israel brought by South Africa in The Hague at the Dullah Omar Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, on January 26, 2024, during an event organized by the South African ruling African National Congress party. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

The European Union said Friday it wanted “immediate” implementation of a United Nations court ruling that Israel must prevent genocidal acts in Gaza, while the United States reiterated its assertion that genocide allegations made by South Africa are “unfounded.”

“Orders of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties and they must comply with them. The European Union expects their full, immediate and effective implementation,” the European Union said.

“We continue to believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded and note the court did not make a finding about genocide or call for a ceasefire in its ruling and that it called for the unconditional, immediate release of all hostages being held by Hamas,” a US State Department spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

“The court’s ruling is consistent with our view that Israel has the right to take action to ensure the terrorist attacks of October 7 cannot be repeated, in accordance with international law,” the spokesperson said.

“We have consistently made clear that Israel must take all take all possible steps to minimize civilian harm, increase the flow of humanitarian assistance, and address dehumanizing rhetoric,” the US statement added, in an apparent reference to the court’s decision ordering Israel to take urgent steps to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza along with incendiary comments by its lawmakers.

The State Department spokesperson said the US recognizes the “vital role” that the ICJ plays in the peaceful settlement of disputes and added that it would continue to monitor the proceedings as they move forward.

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 25, 2024. (AFP)

Like the EU of which Germany is a member, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Israel “must adhere” to the ICJ’s ruling, but also said Hamas needs to release its remaining hostages.

“These [measures ordered by the ICJ] are also binding under international law.”

“At the same time, the court made it clear that Israel’s actions in Gaza follow the barbaric terror of October 7, and recalled that Hamas is also bound by international humanitarian law and must finally release all hostages,” Baerbock added. “We will support this with all our might, as well as the measure ordered by Israel to urgently allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Earlier this month, Germany announced it would intervene as a third party against South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel. Berlin is slated to present its own case to the court that Israel has not infringed the Genocide Convention and has not committed or intended to commit genocide.

Meanwhile, governments supportive of the Palestinian cause around the world hailed Friday’s decision by the ICJ to proceed with the case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, even as The Hague panel stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire as many of those parties had hoped.

IDF troops operate in Gaza in this undated handout photo released January 26, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

South Africa, which brought the case against Israel, hailed the decision, calling it a “decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people.

“Third States are now on notice of the existence of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” South Africa’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions, which are plausibly genocidal.”

South Africa hopes Israel will comply with Friday’s World Court order that Israel must take steps to prevent acts of genocide as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said in an interview.

Lamola also told Reuters on the sidelines of a gathering of the governing African National Congress (ANC) party that South Africa’s liberation hero Nelson Mandela would be smiling in his grave at Friday’s ICJ judgment.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee suspended a meeting to watch a broadcast from the court, and live footage from the event showed senior party and government figures celebrating.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling council of the ANC Congress party erupted in cheers, singing and dancing after judges read the order. Ramaphosa was due to make a speech on the ruling later Friday.

The Palestinian Authority said the ruling by the UN’s top court shows “no state is above the law.”

“The ICJ order is an important reminder that no state is above the law,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a video statement, adding that the ruling “should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity.”

The Hamas terror group hailed the “important” ruling, saying it “contributes to isolating Israel.”

“The (International) Court of Justice’s decision is an important development which contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza,” the Gaza-ruling terror organization said in a statement.

South African, left, and Israel’s delegation, right, stand during a session at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the decision was an important development that contributes to exposing Israel’s crimes in Gaza,

“We call for forcing the occupation to implement the court’s decisions,” he added.

Iran’s foreign minister called for Israeli authorities to face justice.

“Today, the authorities of the fake Israeli regime… must be brought to justice immediately for committing genocide and unprecedented war crimes against the Palestinians,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted.

Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leaders and has served as the main mediator between the terror group and Israel since the war’s outbreak, also issued a statement welcoming the ruling.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the ruling, saying he hoped it would halt attacks against civilians.

“We hope that Israel’s attacks against women, children and the elderly will come to an end,” Erdogan said in a social media statement, calling the ruling “valuable.”

Spain, one of the most critical voices in Europe of Israel’s offensive against Hamas, welcomed the decision as well.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart jn Ankara, Turkey on January 24, 2024. (Adem Altan/AFP)

“We will continue to advocate for peace and an end to war, the release of hostages, access to humanitarian aid and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, so that both nations coexist in peace and security,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.

Saudi Arabia foreign ministry’s welcomed the ruling and affirmed “its categorical rejection of the Israeli occupation’s practices and violations of the United Nations Convention on genocide,” it adds.

Human rights lawyer Reed Brody told Reuters, “The ICJ didn’t give South Africa all it wanted, but this ruling is a resounding vindication of Pretoria’s decision to bring the case, and a powerful indictment of Israeli policy.

“Most importantly, whatever the Israeli government may say, this binding order will put pressure on Israel, directly and through its allies, to end the collective punishment of the people of Gaza and to allow humanitarian aid,” he added.

In its highly anticipated ruling, the ICJ ruled that at least some of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip during the current war against Hamas appear capable of falling within the terms of the Genocide Convention and that it must therefore take a series of measures to prevent such acts, as well as prevent and punish incitement to genocide in Israel.

The ICJ did not, however, order Israel to call for an immediate unilateral ceasefire, which would have indicated that the court believes genocide is actively taking place.

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip sit next to the border fence with Egypt in Rafah, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Crucially, the court did not use the word “desist” in its decision which would have also indicated that it believed genocide was actively taking place, and the order repeated on several occasions that the decision was not a determination on the merits of South Africa’s allegations of genocide.

Although this will take the sting out of the orders against Israel, the court’s acceptance that there is plausibility to some of South Africa’s claims may cause severe diplomatic damage to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that the court’s decision not to grant the order for Israel to declare an immediate ceasefire meant that it had rejected South Africa’s claim that it has no right to self-defense against the October 7 atrocities committed by Hamas which sparked the current war.

Along with the order to take all measures to prevent genocide against the Palestinians, the ICJ ordered Israel to ensure that the IDF does not carry out acts of genocide (15 votes to 2); that the state prevent and punish incitement to genocide against Palestinians (16 to 1); take urgent measures to alleviate the “adverse” humanitarian situation in Gaza 16 to 1; prevent the destruction of evidence related to allegations of acts genocide (15 to 2); and report back to the court in one month on the issues laid out in the order (15 to 2).

Crucially, the court decided that the numerous and highly inflammatory comments of some senior Israeli officials that could be interpreted as an endorsement of deliberately harming civilians gave plausibility to South Africa’s allegations that Israel has genocidal intent against Palestinians in Gaza during the current conflict.

Judge Aharon Barak, the ad hoc judge appointed by Israel to the ICJ bench, voted against the order that Israel must take steps to prevent genocide, but voted in favor of the order that Israel must take steps against incitement to genocide and to provide aid to Gaza to alleviate the severe humanitarian conditions in the coastal enclave.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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