The International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared itself competent on Friday January 26 to judge the dispute between South Africa and Israel. Joan E. Donoghue, President of the ICJ, opened the session to read the decision made by a panel of seventeen judges. “The Court is fully aware of the scale of the human tragedy unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned by the continued loss of life and human suffering,” it said.

The ICJ, which sits in The Hague (Netherlands), does not rule on the question of whether Israel is in fact committing genocide or not. It issues emergency orders before reviewing the case on its merits, a process that can take years.

Israel must take “all measures in its power to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” the court said. She also ordered Israel to allow humanitarian access to Gaza. Israel must take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance that Palestinians urgently need to address the unfavorable living conditions faced by Palestinians.”

The affair aroused strong emotions in Israel. “It’s the world upside down,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “If there were acts that can be described as genocidal, then they were perpetrated against Israel,” Israeli lawyer Tal Becker told the ICJ.

No way to enforce decisions

The orders of the Court, which decides disputes between countries, are legally binding and final. However, the Court has no means to enforce them. For example, she ordered Russia to suspend its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Netanyahu has previously suggested that he would not feel obliged to follow a court order. “No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the Axis of Evil, not anyone else,” he said. Hamas pledged on Thursday to respect a ceasefire if it was demanded by the ICJ, but on condition that Israel also complies with it.

The war was sparked by Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an Agence France Presse tally based on data official.