A leading Catholic charity has called for “an end to the bloodshed in Gaza” after an international court has demanded Israel should do everything in its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza – but stopped short of ordering an end to its offensive.
Friday’s (26th Jan) ruling by judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) came at an early stage in South Africa’s case alleging that Israel’s military action in its war with Hamas in Gaza is genocidal.
South Africa welcomed the measures describing the ruling as a “decisive victory for the international rule of law”; while Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, posted on X saying: “Hague schmague”.
The court ruled it has jurisdiction to hear arguments and it therefore denied Israel’s request that it throws out the case.
It ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide and report back to the court within one month.
South Africa filed the case, arguing Israel is breaching the UN convention on genocide by “killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”
Speaking in response to the decision, CAFOD’s Head of Middle East Region, Janet Symes, said: “The ICJ order reinforces CAFOD’s repeated calls for unimpeded humanitarian access and an urgent end to the bloodshed in Gaza. We do not believe this conflict offers any lasting solution to the crisis in the region and it must stop immediately.
“The measures the ICJ have stipulated includes the need for immediate humanitarian assistance. This must be urgently acted upon. There are no safe spaces in Gaza and the current level of assistance is nowhere near enough. Our partners working inside Gaza are exhausted as they continue to offer shelter and assistance to families. Only a sustained ceasefire will create the conditions for a full humanitarian response.
“The UK must recognise its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Prevention Convention and call for an immediate ceasefire, the upholding of international law by all parties to the conflict and support the desperately needed humanitarian assistance.
“In Khan Younis, CAFOD’s local partner had been helping more than 9,000 people by providing places to sleep in their three shelters, hot meals, and carrying out activities to distract children from the disruption and trauma caused by the conflict all around them. But it’s now too dangerous in Khan Younis. Having already left their homes, families are being uprooted once again and moved to new, hastily built shelters elsewhere.”
Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, has said that the judges ruled “in favour of humanity and international law”, but Israel has strongly denied the accusation, calling it “baseless”.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will “continue to defend ourselves and our citizens while adhering to international law”.
A verdict on South Africa’s allegation of genocide is not expected for years. Meanwhile, US media report that the head of the CIA is due to meet Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in the coming days to discuss a new potential ceasefire in Gaza.