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The Ongoing ICJ Gaza Genocide Case

Updated: Jun 12

A Summary of the ICJ’s Preliminary Hearings a Month After the Ruling

By Sanad Hamdouna

Cover Artist & Co-Editor-in-Chief



On December 29th, 2023, South Africa initiated proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), alleging that Israel was in violation of its obligations to prevent and punish the crime of Genocide in relation to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Specifically, South Africa accuses Israel of intentionally killing Palestinians in Gaza, inflicting serious bodily and mental harm upon them, and imposing on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their destruction as a substantial part of the Palestinian racial, national, and ethnic group. These are all acts outlined in the 1948 Genocide Convention as being genocidal when paired with intent, whether explicit or implicit. 


South Africa’s 84-page application can be found for free on the ICJ’s website, providing extensive detail on the allegations. It details the historical and political context of Gaza as well as the recent ongoing series of massacres and abuses perpetrated by Israel, backed by ample UN-verified evidence. 


In addition to their allegations, South Africa requested the indication of urgent provisional measures to halt any potentially genocidal actions against Palestinians in Gaza and protect them from immediate danger during the trial period, which could go on for years. 


The first hearing in this case was held on January 11th, at The Hague, where South Africa presented their arguments in favour of implementing provisional measures to protect Palestinians. They argued that Israel’s acts in Gaza since October 7th “form a calculated pattern of conduct by Israel, indicating a genocidal intent” and went on to list examples of Israeli conduct in the Gaza Strip which consist of crimes under international law, such as: “targeted sniping of civilians”, “designating safe zones for Palestinians to seek refuge and then bombing these”, and “the destruction of the health infrastructure”. 


As further demonstration of intent, South Africa highlights genocidal rhetoric by high ranking Israeli officials, including the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament’s call “for the erasure of the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” They also emphasize the urgency of implementing immediate provisional measures, stating: 

“Every day there is mounting irreparable loss of life, property, dignity, and humanity for the Palestinian people. […] Without an indication of provisional measures, the atrocities will continue; with the Israeli defense force indicating that it intends pursuing this course of action for at least a year.”


Israel had the opportunity to present a defense the next day. Its lawyers argued that Israel had a right to defend itself and highlighted alleged crimes committed by Hamas on October 7th. They then stated that “none of these atrocities absolve Israel of its obligations under the law,” effectively dismantling their own argument. Still, Hamas’ actions remained one of Israel’s only arguments against the implementation of provisional measures, causing the court to note that “Israel did not challenge the standing of South Africa in the present proceedings”.


These paragraphs provide summaries and snippets of the hearings; it is recommended that the reader watch both sessions for a detailed understanding of the situation.


The ICJ announced its ruling on South Africa’s request for provisional measures on the 26th of January 2024. The court ruled in South Africa’s favour, stating: “In the Court’s view, at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention.This means the ICJ believes it is possible that Israel is committing Genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and that they can proceed with a full court case judging Israel at the ICJ. 


The court also granted South Africa nearly all its requests for provisional measures, with the exception of an immediate ceasefire. However, it appears a ceasefire would still be necessary to fulfill the court’s orders, such as Israel taking “all measures within its power to prevent […] killing members of the group”.


As of February 17th, Israel has reportedly not complied with any of the ICJ’s orders and has, according to Euromed Monitor, killed over 3300 additional Palestinians since the ICJ’s ruling. Putting the rising death toll at 36,671 as of February 13th. A grim yet unsurprising development considering that even before the ICJ issued its ruling, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated: “No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else.” 


It then becomes imperative that the entire international community take decisive action, isolating Israel, punishing complicity in genocide, and forcefully bringing an end to the bloodshed.


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