ICJ orders Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza

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The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to limit harm to Palestinians in Gaza in a politically explosive case brought by South Africa that alleges the country is committing genocide in the enclave.

In a hearing in The Hague on Friday, the 17-strong panel of judges also ruled that Israel should take steps to “prevent and punish” incitement to genocide, as well as to ensure the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.

However, the court stopped short of granting South Africa’s request that Israel should “immediately suspend” its military operations in the enclave.

“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,” Joan Donoghue, the court’s president, said.

Friday’s decision relates only to South Africa’s request for emergency measures to be applied while the case is heard. A final ruling on Pretoria’s allegation that Israel is committing genocide will probably take years.

Israel has furiously rejected the claims as “profoundly distorted”, insisting that it is acting in self-defence following the rampage by Hamas militants that triggered the war. It has also argued that its forces in Gaza are complying with international law, and that it is seeking to minimise harm to civilians.

This is a developing story