Hundreds outside ICJ give Israel ruling a measured welcome

Under a large video screen opposite the international court of justice in The Hague, hundreds of Palestinian supporters had gathered in anticipation of the court’s interim ruling on South Africa’s accusation that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

Loud cheers soon erupted in the crowd when the court ruled that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent all acts within the scope of the 1948 genocide convention.

Lighting red-and-green smoke flares and chanting slogans, the demonstrators, which included climate activist Greta Thunberg, also applauded when the ICJ ruled that Israel must ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza, preserve evidence related to allegations of genocide and submit a report in a month’s time on its compliance with these measures.

“It is very important that the ICJ did not throw out the genocide case at Israel’s request … We can only hope now that humanitarian aid is allowed into Gaza,” said Joris Doting, holding a large banner that read “Stop Genocide in Gaza”.

But, ultimately, many pro-Palestinian supporters were left feeling frustrated after the top UN court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza.

“I am very disappointed. This is simply not enough,” said Raya, a German-Palestinian citizen who travelled from Germany to witness the hearing.

“My friends and family are dying in Gaza and this ruling will not stop Israel from bombing us,” Raya added, before joining a “ceasefire now” chant.

The Palestinian death toll in Israel’s assault on Gaza has surpassed 25,000, according to the ministry of health in the territory.

Still, some lauded what they described as a “historic” court decision.

“Today’s ruling is a clear signal to Israel that they need to follow international laws. Israel has been ordered to prevent acts of genocide,” said the pro-Palestinian protester Carolien Nieweboer.

“Of course, we hoped for a ceasefire, but our expectations weren’t very high,” she added. The Palestinian foreign ministry similarly welcomed orders by the ICJ and called it an “important reminder that no state is above the law”.

The South African foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, who flew to The Hague for the ruling, told journalists outside the court that she would have wanted the word cessation to be included in the judgment.

“But I’m satisfied with the directions that have been given,” Pandor said.

Separated by Dutch riot police, pro-Israel supporters were watching the court proceeding on a different screen 300 metres away.

Pro-Israel activists awaiting the ICJ verdict in The Hague. Photograph: Patrick Post/AP

Many were carrying Dutch and Israeli flags as well as pictures of people taken hostage by Hamas during the 7 October attack in Israel.

“I am against a ceasefire as long as the hostages, which include children, remain abducted in Gaza,” said Miri, a Dutch-Israeli teacher.

“We did not start this war. It started on 7 October,” she added.

While the closely watched case will add pressure on Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over its war against Hamas, the Israeli leader was quick on Friday to stress that his country would “continue this war until absolute victory, until all hostages are returned and Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel”.

“Like every country, Israel has a basic right to defend itself … The ICJ in The Hague justly rejected the outrageous demand to deprive us of this right,” Netanyahu said, appearing to refer to the fact that the ICJ did not call for an immediate ceasefire.

Netanyahu also said the ICJ’s willingness to discuss genocide claims against Israel was “a disgrace that will not be erased for generations”.

Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, openly mocked the ICJ ruling by tweeting: “Hague Shmague”.

While the ICJ’s decisions are binding and Israel cannot appeal against them, the court has no way of enforcing them.