International Court of Justice Allows Israel to Continue War Against Hamas, Refuses to Call for Ceasefire

The International Court of Justice declined to order a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday in a highly-anticipated decision.


The International Court of Justice declined to order a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday in a highly-anticipated decision. The ICJ did not rule in favor of South Africa’s claims that Israel is conducting a genocide in the Gaza Strip, but did ask Israel to take measures to protect civilians.

  • The ICJ’s interim ruling demands that Israel take six actions: take all necessary measures to prevent a genocide in Gaza; ensure the military doesn’t commit “genocidal acts,” prevent and publish “any public comments that could be considered incitement to commit genocide,” maintain humanitarian access to the Strip, preserve evidence, and submit a report in a month.
  • While the ruling does not call for a ceasefire, the ICJ’s decision to take up the case and continue deliberations is a blow for Israel, who had asked the court to reject South Africa’s case outright.
  • “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people. Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the verdict
  • “The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected,” Netanyahu added. “The charge of genocide levelled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.”
  • The United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency created to help Palestinians, said it has opened an investigation after Israel brought evidence that at least 12 employees took part in the Oct. 7 attacks. The head of UNRWA immediately fired those employees and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres claimed he was “horrified” by the news. 
  • The US State Department announced that UNRWA funding would be “temporarily paused” while the allegations are under investigation and to assess how the UN addresses them. The pause in UNRWA funding restores the Trump-era status quo that was reversed by Biden in Jan. 2021.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “Officials in Israel on Friday denounced the International Court of Justice’s order seeking to prevent genocidal acts in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza but also expressed relief the court did not order it to halt its military campaign,” the New York Times reported. The Times noted that the decision was “in line with what most legal experts had forecast.”
  • CNN covered the response from Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority. Al-Maliki claimed the ruling “breaks Israel’s entrenched culture of criminality and impunity, which has characterized its decades-long occupation, dispossession, persecution, and apartheid in Palestine.”
  • The Washington Post compared Palestinian hopes that the court would issue a ceasefire orders to those of Ukrainians when the court demanded a ceasefire in the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2022. However, they quoted legal scholars who pointed to key differences in the two cases, namely that Friday’s ICJ ruling includes “an implicit validation that Israel does have a legitimate claim of self-defense.”



  • Fox News pointed out the ICJ also ordered Hamas to immediately release all of the more than 100 hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza. As reporter Lawrence Richard wrote drily, “It is not immediately clear whether Hamas will comply.”
  • The New York Post noted the ICJ’s “decision is only an interim one; it could take years for the full case brought by South Africa to be considered.” Israel has demanded that the entire case be thrown out, but the ICJ has chosen to keep the case alive for the time being.
  • National Review’s Noah Rothman disparaged the “weak and confused case” that South Africa brought before the ICJ. Rothman pointed out, “The good news for Israel here is that it is, by all publicly available accounts, already in compliance with the ICJ’s recommendations.” Rothman continued, “the case South Africa presented against Israel was not narrowly tailored so as to indict merely its conduct in the war inaugurated by Hamas’s 10/7 massacre. It was designed to indict the state going back to its founding.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2023