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ICJ Orders Action in Gaza: Can Legal Pressure Quell Longstanding Conflict?

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to take all necessary steps to stop the genocide in the Gaza Strip and to make sure that essential basic amenities and humanitarian aid are provided.

The order was issued on January 26, 2024, as the case was brought before the ICJ by South Africa, accusing Israel of breaching the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip. Even though the court refrained from categorically classifying the current circumstances of events as genocide, it did recognize the seriousness of the humanitarian catastrophe and concluded that prompt action was required.


ICJ Ruling:

To bring about peace in the Israel-Gaza conflict, the International Court of Justice has made a significant move. Their ruling outlined specific actions to prevent genocidal acts such as killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and purposefully imposing life-threatening conditions on the civilians of Gaza. The court further ordered Israel to assist in the prompt and efficient provision of humanitarian aid and basic services to alleviate the grave circumstances in Gaza and also for Israel to report back after one month of this order about all the actions taken to implement it.


Reaction to the ICJ Ruling:

Israel has not complied with the ruling in its entirety and continues to assert its right to self-defence. “Israel's commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and our people. Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself.” Said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

On the other hand, the pro-Palestine group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), welcomes the ICJ's ruling against Israel and the UK for cutting United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) aid. Also, the PSC demands the UK cease arms sales, prosecute inciters, and support legal action against Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza are expressing their deep dismay at the International Court of Justice's decision to not order Israel to stop its almost four-month-long aerial bombardment and ground invasion of the region. Gazans did not receive the intended results from the case, which was started by South Africa and accused Israel of genocide.

A father of six, displaced and seeking refuge in a hospital's courtyard alongside numerous other Palestinians, expressed his disapproval to Al Jazeera: "It’s shocking that, unfortunately, no one can handle calls for a ceasefire. Everyone is watching our annihilation without taking action to push for a serious ceasefire.”

“We do not want aid or food. We want a ceasefire, an end to the war, and a return to Gaza,” he added.


Spotlight After ICJ Ruling:

The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens despite the verdict and increasing pressure from the international community. The violence persists, and there are increasing numbers of civilian casualties.

As per the (UNRWA), almost two million people are in extreme need of food, water, and medical attention and are in a dire humanitarian situation. Over a thousand people are being forced to flee due to Israeli military orders, which are causing extra anguish and disruptions in the distribution of aid.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,

(OCHA) There are still a lot of Israeli air, land, and sea attacks on Gaza, which are displacing more civilians, damaging infrastructure, and killing more people. In the region, there is also ongoing fighting between armed Palestinian organisations and Israeli soldiers. 


Limitations of the ICJ Ruling:

The ICJ finds it difficult to implement its decisions when the legal landscape is obscured by complicated alliances and divergent legal interpretations. Geopolitical complexities entangle international pressure and cooperation—two things that are essential for enforcement. This is a serious obstacle, as demonstrated by situations such as Israel's activities in Gaza, where it is still difficult to bring about ICJ rulings to be followed.

Although the International Court of Justice (ICJ) functions as the UN's judicial branch, its decisions lack legal power in the absence of enforcing mechanisms. When complex alliances and divergent legal interpretations exist, it is extremely difficult to implement these rulings.


Recent Developments

The ICJ wrapped up public hearings on February 26, 2024, in response to a major request for an advisory opinion about the legal consequences of Israel's policies and actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. This request made by the General Assembly of the United Nations presents important legal issues and has drawn attention from throughout the world.


There are several facets to the ICJ's involvement in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Its efforts to respect international law and draw attention to humanitarian issues are commendable, but there are several obstacles to overcome, including the absence of enforcement mechanisms and varying interpretations. In the end, resolving the conflict's underlying issues via persistent diplomatic efforts, taking into account a variety of viewpoints, and placing the welfare of civilians above all else is necessary for a durable peace.


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