Netanyahu says genocide claim ‘outrageous’ after UN court stops short of ordering cease-fire in Gaza

The UN's top court says Israel must take "all steps" to prevent genocide in Gaza, ITV News' John Irvine explains what this ruling means

Israel must take "all measures in its power" to prevent genocide in Gaza, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in an early-stage hearing in The Hague on Friday.

It also recommended that everything possible was done to secure the immediate and unconditional release of hostages.

Judges did not agree with all of the measures suggested by South Africa, and stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire, as requested in the original complaint.

"The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” Joan E. Donoghue, president of the ICJ, said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the genocide claims as "outrageous" and said the war will carry on

Netanyahu also pledged to do whatever is "necessary" to defend his country.

He said: "The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.

"Our war is against Hamas terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians. We will continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm's way, even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

"We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people."

Israel's Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir showed his disdain for the ruling by posting: "Hague Schmague" on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Maliki welcomed “the significant order.”

Meanwhile a top official with Hamas says his group will abide by a ceasefire if the Hague calls for one.

Osama Hamdan said on Thursday that Hamas would also be ready to release the remaining hostages it is holding if Israel releases Palestinian prisoners.

He said Hamas is open to all initiatives for an exchange but that the hostages would not return home until there was “a comprehensive cease of the aggression against our people.”

The court ruling also referred to the possibility of the living conditions in Gaza worsening further, such as the spread of epidemic diseases and the mass displacement of residents into neighbouring countries.

Israel has to submit a report on the allegations outlined in the case within the next month.

The court said it would not throw out the genocide case, as requested by Israel, after it vehemently rejected the accusation.

South Africa asked judges to impose so-called provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza while this case, which will likely take years, goes through the court.

The case represents the first time Israel has been tried by an international court.

South Africa accused Israel of having committed genocide in its military operations in Gaza, where 26,083 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, and over 64,400 people have been wounded as of Friday.

The current conflict broke out as a result of terrorist group Hamas' surprise attacks in Israel on October 7, and Israel has repeatedly said that it has a right to defend itself against such attacks.

Global reactions

World leaders have responded to the decision by the International Court of Justice.

The South African government, who first accused Israel of committing genocide, said the ruling was a victory for international law and the ruling had determined that “Israel’s actions in Gaza are plausibly genocidal.”

“There is no credible basis for Israel to continue to claim that its military actions are in full compliance with international law, including the Genocide Convention, having regard to the Court’s ruling,” the statement said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision as “valuable.”

Turkey would continue seeking to “ensure that war crimes committed against innocent Palestinian civilians do not go unpunished,” he added, writing on X, formerly Twitter.

Ankara has strongly criticized Israel’s operation in Gaza, alleging war crimes and human rights abuses.

Demands made by the ICJ

The ICJ said Israel must do everything in its power to prevent the following:

  • killing Palestinians in Gaza;

  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to Palestinians in Gaza;

  • deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Palestinians in Gaza;

  • imposing measures intended to prevent births among Palestinians in Gaza.

The Court also stipulated that Israel must do everything in its power to do the following:

  • punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip;

  • enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip;

  • take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to the allegations;

  • submit a report to the Court on all measures recommended in the ruling.

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