ICJ orders Israel to ‘take all measures within its power’ to prevent genocide in Gaza

UN top court stops short of ordering a ceasefire in genocide case but demands that Israel try to contain death and damage in Gaza


Main points

  • ICJ orders Israel to take “all measures within its power” to prevent genocide in Gaza
  • ICJ does not order ceasefire but demands that Israel contain death and damage in Gaza
  • Israel must ensure preservation of evidence of alleged genocide, court told
  • Court says it will not throw out case brought by South Africa
  • South Africa’s case alleges Israel is perpetrating genocide in Gaza and called on court to order provisional measures
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland will abide by any ruling the ICJ makes, while Tánaiste Micheál Martin has the Government is ‘strongly’ considering intervening in the case against Israel and has requested legal advice

Key reads


That concludes our live coverage of Friday’s International Court of Justice ruling in the case brought against Israel by South Africa.

For a recap of what went on in the court today, see our separate story from Peter Cluskey here.


In further reaction to today’s ruling, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign has said it is “implicit recognition that Israel’s attack on Gaza, which has killed more than 1 per cent of population in just four months, is indeed plausibly an act of genocide”.

The group also said the ruling was “a historic defeat for the genocidal apartheid state of Israel, and its backers, in both the world court and the court of public opinion”.

It has called on the Irish Government to fulfil its “obligations to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention by imposing lawful sanctions on Israel and complicit corporate entities, including ending the bilateral arms trade, and implementing the Occupied Territories Bill and Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill”.


The international humanitarian and development agency Islamic Relief has issued a statement on the ICJ’s ruling.

“Alongside the provisional measures that the ICJ ordered today, there must be an immediate ceasefire.

“There is not a moment to lose. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is absolutely catastrophic, with 1 in every 25 people now injured or killed and the death toll rising every day. Mass famine is looming, with hundreds of thousands of people facing starvation and children eating leaves to survive. Diseases are rapidly spreading as shelters are desperately overcrowded with hundreds of people sharing a single toilet and no clean water.

“People urgently need food, water, fuel, medicine and other essential supplies. The ruling’s requirement for aid to reach those who need it will only be possible with a ceasefire and an end to Israel’s siege.”


Trócaire welcomes ICJ ruling

Irish NGO Trócaire has welcomed the decision of the ICJ.

In a statement on Friday Trócaire’s chief executive Caoimhe de Barra, said: “We welcome the findings from the International Court of Justice today in particular the ruling that Israel must take measures to ensure humanitarian access.

“While we would like to have seen an order for a full and immediate ceasefire we welcome the provisional measures which we hope will serve to protect the people of Gaza. Trócaire is now calling on the Irish Government to ensure that Israel complies with all of the provisional measures imposed by the ICJ and that Ireland engages with its partners in the EU and USA to in particular to achieve this.”

“We’re asking the Irish Government to join the substantive case with South Africa as soon as possible and we continue to call for full ceasefire and a political resolution that respects the legitimate rights of Palestinians and which achieves a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”


Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin have also responded to the ICJ’s ruling. Ms McDonald, the party’s leader, said in a post on X, “the only means to ensure no further genocidal action is a full & permanent ceasefire”.


Ireland will abide by ICJ ruling, says Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland will abide by any ruling the International Court of Justice makes.

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Galway at lunchtime on Friday before the full ruling was made, said once South Africa lodges its main, the Government will then be in a position to decide whether to make an intervention.

“What I would say is if a war has even been ended by a court order I don’t know what war that was. War is ended three ways; a military victory over one side or another; an armistice or a frozen conflict; or through politics and diplomacy. “And that’s why our focus has been politics and diplomacy and looking for a ceasefire so that hostages can be released and humanitarian aid can get in and that the killing of Palestinian civilians can stop. “A move towards a permanent ceasefire which would have to involve the Hamas leadership and Hamas fighters leaving Gaza and a new Palestinian leadership put in place.”

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Athenry, Co Galway, said they would consider supporting the South African case. “Once South Africa lodges its main case we will be in a position to decide whether or not we make an intervention, or what the nature of that intervention would be.

“But this case could go on for three or four years and I don’t think the people on the ground in Israel or Palestine have three or four years. “Wars don’t end by court orders. Wars end through politics and diplomacy and that is why our focus is on that and trying to get a humanitarian ceasefire so aid can get in and help civilians and hostages can be released.

“So we can then talk about the day after in Gaza. About rebuilding, and that has to mean Hamas not being involved in that. And it has to mean Israel conceding the right of Palestinians to have their own State and Gaza should be a part of that.” – John Fallon in Athenry


People Before Profit call for sanctions against Israel

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has described the ICJ ruling as a major blow to the Israeli state and called on the EU and the Irish Government to introduce “harsh sanctions against Israel.

“There must be an embargo on the arms trade to Israel, and there must be other measures to physically stop the humanitarian destruction that is occurring in Gaza,” said Mr Boyd Barrett.

“The absence of an unambiguous call for Israel to cease its murderous bombing assault on Gaza is extremely disappointing. I would now urge the Irish Government to join in the South African case in opposition to the genocide being perpetrated by Israel- and for international community to enforce a ceasefire. This is a legal obligation for Ireland under the Genocide Convention.”


Ireland has ‘vital role to play’ in ensuring Israel fully complies with measures outlined by ICJ, says Labour Party

Friday’s ICJ ruling is a “significant step towards justice for the people of Gaza” and underscores “the gravity of the accusations against Israel”, Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin has said.

“The provisional measures mandated by the Court are crucial,” he said. “They call on Israel, as a party to the ICJ Convention, to prioritise the physical and emotional wellbeing of the Palestinian people. Adequate access to the means of living is a fundamental human right that must be safeguarded. The ICJ has taken a vital stance, emphasising the necessity for Israel to uphold these obligations.

Ireland now has “a vital role to play in ensuring that Israel fully complies with the interim measures outlined by the court”, said Mr Howlin.” The urgency of the matter cannot be overstated, and Ireland should join with South Africa in pushing for a thorough and just resolution to the substantive case. Now, more than ever, international solidarity and commitment to human rights are paramount in paving the way for a better future for the people of Gaza.”


Irish Government must stop dithering and signal intention to support South Africa, say Social Democrats

Friday’s ICJ ruling on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel “must be a turning point in this horrific conflict”, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns has said.

“While the court did not order a complete cessation of Israel’s miliary operation in Gaza, it is difficult to see how Israel can comply with the court’s order in the absence of a ceasefire,” said Ms Cairns. “Gaza is the most densely populated place on the planet. Missile strikes and its ground invasion will inevitably lead to civilian casualties.

“The fact that the ICJ has found that Israel, a western democratic State, has a case to answer for alleged genocide is itself very significant,” she said, adding that “there are also questions to answer for Israel’s cheerleaders in the international community – particularly the United States, the UK and Germany – who have watched the wholesale slaughter in Gaza and endorsed Israel’s right to engage in this massacre.”

The Irish Government’s stance on the ICJ case has been “extremely inconsistent” and delay in joining the case is now “unconscionable”, she said. “The Government must indicate its intention to support South Africa – and begin the considerable legal analysis that will be involved in intervening in the case. “Now that the ICJ has rejected Israel’s contention that it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case, and found there is a possibility that a genocide is being inflicted on the Palestinian people, the Irish Government must stop dithering and immediately signal its intention to support South Africa.”


Ireland must join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, says Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Irish Government to join with South Africa in their genocide case to against Israel and described Friday’s ICJ ruling at The Hague as “decisive and significant”.

“It has established that South Africa has standing and that Israel has a case to answer,” said Ms McDonald. “Today’s rulings are binding on Israel. They must be respected and enforced. Israeli impunity must end.

“The only way to fulfil the order of the court is through a full, immediate and permanent ceasefire. “The Irish Government, having heard the provisional ruling of the International Court of Justice, must now clearly and unequivocally indicate their intention to join with South Africa in their case to hold Israel accountable for their crimes against the Palestinian people,” said the Sinn Féin leader.


Government strongly considering intervention in genocide case following ICJ ruling, says Tánaiste

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said the Government is “strongly” considering intervening in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel and has requested legal advice “on an urgent basis” following the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Friday.

The Tánaiste said he strongly welcomed the court’s orders and that Ireland expected Israel to now “implement all provisional measures that have been ordered by the court, in good faith and as a matter of urgency”.

“As agreed by the Dáil earlier this week, the Government will strongly consider intervention in the case, following detailed analysis of the court’s decision today,” he said. “I have therefore asked my officials to prepare legal advice for my consideration on an urgent basis.”

“While the court has not called for a ceasefire, the Court has ordered Israel and the IDF not to commit any acts of genocide, and importantly has ordered Israel to take immediate and effective measures to ensure urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance are provided in Gaza,” said Mr Martin. “These orders are binding and the court has ordered Israel to report in one month to demonstrate compliance with its orders. It is also imperative that Israel prevents and punishes incitement to genocide.”

He added that an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is needed in Gaza.”


South Africa has described Friday’s ICJ ruling as a “decisive victory for the international rule of law” and a “significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people”.

“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,” said a statement from South Africa’s international relations and co-operation department.

It also noted that “third States are now on notice of the existence of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. They must, therefore, also act independently and immediately to prevent genocide by Israel and to ensure that they are not themselves in violation of the Genocide Convention, including by aiding or assisting in the commission of genocide. This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions, which are plausibly genocidal.

“South Africa sincerely hopes that Israel will not act to frustrate the application of this order, as it has publicly threatened to do, but that it will instead act to comply with it fully, as it is bound to do.

“The indication by this Court of provisional measures pursuant to the Genocide Convention marks a significant historical step towards that goal.”


Israel will continue to defend itself while adhering to international law, says Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said Israel will continue to defend itself while adhering to international law. Speaking after Friday’s ruling at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Mr Netanyahu said “Israel is fighting a just war like no other”. “We will continue this war until absolute victory, until all hostages are returned and Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel,” he said. He also said the ICJ’s willingness to discuss genocide claims against Israel was “a disgrace that will not be erased for generations”. -The Guardian


ICJ ruling is an ‘important reminder that no state is above the law’, the Palestinian foreign ministry has said. The ministry welcomed orders by the ICJ on Friday and called it an “important reminder that no state is above the law”. Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said in a televised speech on Friday: “The ICJ judges assessed the facts and the law, they ruled in favour of humanity and international law.”

Mr Al-Maliki added that Palestine called on all states to ensure the measures ordered by the court are implemented “including by Israel, the occupying power.” – The Guardian



Ruling is hugely significant, says Christian Aid Ireland

Christian Aid Ireland has described the ICJ’s order for Israel to prevent genocide as “hugely significant not only for Palestinians and the wider world but also for states like Ireland”.

“Ireland’s obligation to take action to prevent genocide is triggered if there is even a ‘serious risk’ of it occurring,” said Conor O’Neill from Christian Aid Ireland. “The ICJ is clear that we must not wait until it’s too late.”

“Now the ICJ has accepted that there is a plausible case and risk that Israel is or will breach its obligations under the genocide convention. The UN’s highest court has effectively put the world on notice.”

“That the ICJ stopped short of ordering a full ceasefire underscores how essential it is that Ireland continues to be a leading voice on this,” said Mr O’Neill.




Recap of ICJ ruling

The United Nations’ top court has stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza in a genocide case but demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive in the tiny coastal enclave.

South Africa brought the case, which goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, and had asked the court to order Israel to halt its operation.

In the highly anticipated decision made by a panel of 17 judges, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided not to throw out the case – and ordered six so-called provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

“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, the court’s president, said.

Friday’s decision, however, is only an interim one, it could take years for the full case brought by South Africa to be considered.

Israel rejects the genocide accusation and had asked the court to throw the charges out. – AP


Judge Donoghue has now finished giving the court’s ruling in the case.


A bit of background on what “prima facie” means in this case – the court concludes it has “prima facie” (or first glance) jurisdiction on this case.

In order to gain any temporary measures on Friday, South Africa does not need to prove that genocide has taken place. All it needs to prove is that the court has jurisdiction at first glance, or “prima facie”, and that some of the acts it complains of – in this case including the death toll and forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza – could fall under the genocide convention. – Guardian


The court has heard that Israel must ensure the preservation of evidence of alleged genocide. Judge Donoghue ordered Israel to report to the court within one month. She also said measures must be taken to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.


International Court of Justice orders Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza

Judge Donoghue says the court has decided that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent all acts within the scope of the genocide convention.

She adds that Israel must ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces do not commit any of the act in the genocide convention.

Israel must also take immediate measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. – Guardian


With the reading still ongoing, the court said it recognises the right of Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide.

Palestinians appear to be a protected group under the genocide convention, the court said.

Friday’s ruling at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) does not deal with the core accusation of the case – whether genocide occurred – but will focus on the urgent intervention sought by South Africa. – Reuters


The court hears statements made by Israeli officials, and notes that on October 9th, Israel’s defence minister ordered a complete siege of Gaza.

Yoav Gallant said he had released all restrictions on fighting against “human animals”, adding: “We will eliminate everything.”

The judge reads remarks made by the Israeli president Yitzhak Herzog three days later in which he said the military was working according to the rules of international law.

“We are at war,” he says, adding that civilians in Gaza “could have risen up” to remove Hamas, which governs the Strip.


ICJ rules it has jurisdiction over the genocide case. Judge Donoghue says the court concludes it has “prima facie” (or first glance) jurisdiction on this case, meaning it can continue.


ICJ rules it will not throw out genocide case at Israel’s request “The court considers that it cannot accede to Israel’s request that the case be removed from the general list,” Judge Joan E Donoghue says.


The judge notes the court is “deeply concerned” by the continuing loss of life and human suffering in Gaza.

She says the scope of the present case is limited, and that South Africa and Israel are both parties to the genocide convention.


She began by laying out the Hamas attacks on the October 7th and how Israel responded. Judge Donoghue mentioned “large casualties” and “extensive destruction” in Gaza.


Presiding Judge Joan Joan E. Donoghue has started reading a summary of South Africa’s request, which it submitted under the genocide convention



Germany will respect the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling in a request by South Africa for emergency measures against Israel, a Government spokesperson said on Friday.

The ICJ ruling on Friday will not deal with the core accusation of the case – whether genocide occurred – but will focus on the urgent intervention sought by South Africa. – Reuters



Israeli national airline El Al to scrap direct flights to South Africa

Israel airline El Al announced on Friday that it would be suspending flights along the Tel Aviv-Johannesburg route from April 1st due to decreased demand, The Times of Israel has reported.

The airline’s announcement comes in advance of a ruling from the International Court of Justice regarding South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel, which it accused of state-led genocide for the war against Hamas in Gaza.

El Al has not said, however, whether this has impacted their decision to suspend flights to South Africa.

Scores of international airlines have suspended Tel Aviv flights since the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October, while many countries have warned their nationals against travelling to Israel.


In just over 30 minutes, at midday on Friday, and with the world watching, the International Court of Justice in The Hague is set to give a preliminary ruling in South Africa’s case alleging genocide by Israel in Gaza.

At a two-day hearing this month, South Africa asked the court to issue provisional measures requiring Israel to immediately end its military campaign in Gaza, which began after the 7 October attacks by Hamas.

The court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed against, but it has no enforcement powers and Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has already said “no one will stop us, not The Hague”. However, an adverse ruling could lead to sanctions and would put more pressure on Israel’s allies and military backers – including the US, which previously described the case as “meritless” – to rein it in.

On Thursday, the Israeli Government spokesperson, Eylon Levy, voiced confidence about the outcome. “We expect the ICJ to throw out these spurious and specious charges,” he told reporters.

South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, is flying to The Hague to be present for the decision, suggesting confidence on the part of the claimant, too. – The Guardian


Welcome to the live coverage of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in a case brought by South Africa, which alleges that Israel has perpetrated genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The ICJ will issue an interim verdict on emergency or provisional measures from about noon.

South Africa took the genocide case against Israel, supported by a legal team which included Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC, arguing that although it is not directly affected by Israel’s actions against Gaza, it has an obligation to act as a party to the Convention when genocide is being perpetrated.

Earlier this week, a Social Democrats motion calling on the Irish Government to support South Africa’s case against Israel under the Genocide Convention in the ICJ was defeated in the Dáil. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government agreed South Africa’s application was “valid” but would wait for it to file its main case before deciding on “the nature of any intervention”.

While a final ruling on the matter from the ICJ could take years, South Africa has called on the court to order provisional measures, including a halt to Israel’s military operation. This means that it must determine whether its actions are “plausibly genocidal”.

Israel rejected the claim it is committing genocide against Palestinians, arguing in the ICJ earlier this month that Hamas has shown itself to be a terrorist group with a publicly declared genocidal agenda against Israel.