The United Nations’ top court announced a preliminary ruling Friday on a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide for its ground invasion against Hamas in Gaza.
In the ruling, the International Court of Justice refused to order Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza but said that the Israeli military must take all steps to prevent civilian deaths and remain in adherence with the Genocide Convention.
ICJ president Joan E. Donoghue, who read out the highly anticipated decision, said Israel must continue to let in aid to Gaza while seeking more opportunities to help Palestinian civilians.
“Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s said in response to the ICJ’s preliminary ruling. “Like every country, Israel has an inherent right to defend itself. The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected.”
According to the Dutch newspaper ‘De Telegraaf, the ICJ ordered Hamas to immediately free all remaining hostages. It is not immediately clear whether Hamas will comply.
The court also gave Israel one month to provide the ICJ with a plan to ensure prevention of deaths in Gaza.
Lastly, the court confirmed that it has jurisdiction over South Africa’s genocide case against Israel and will allow it to continue.
The case is likely to take years before the 17 judges on the panel make a final decision.
Israel has vehemently denied that its campaign in Gaza, where it is seeking to eradicate the Hamas terror group, amounts to genocide and has asked the court to throw the case out.
Netanyahu reiterated those comments on Friday.
“The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it,” the prime minister said. “On the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I again pledge as Prime Minister of Israel – Never Again. Israel will continue to defend itself against Hamas, a genocidal terror organization.”
He added: ‘On October 7th, Hamas perpetrated the most horrific atrocities against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and it vows to repeat these atrocities again and again and again. Our war is against Hamas terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians. We will continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way, even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”
Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust told Fox News Digital that Friday’s ruling reflected the latest effort by the U.N. to undermine Israel.
“Hamas is congratulating the Court on its decision. That tells you a lot,” she said. “The UN Court relied entirely on allegations from the rest of the United Nations – it turned itself into an echo chamber of the UN’s political mob. It relied on a Secretary-General who claimed a mere two days after October 7th that the worst atrocities committed against Jews since the Holocaust had to be contextualized.”
“This case was an extension of the massive UN effort from the very start to undermine the ability of Israel to exercise its right of self-defense – against Hamas’s genocide targeting Jews. It turns logic, reason and justice on its head,” Bayefsky continued. “One stark example: The Court quotes the UN number that there are “25,000 killed” in Gaza without saying the source of that number is Hamas – the genocidal terrorist organization itself, or that a huge proportion of those killed are the terrorists themselves. Remember that the UN has no definition of terrorism – because the controlling majority don’t think butchering Israelis is terrorism. When those who commit genocide can pervert the law to serve their genocidal ends, every decent human being loses.”
“The Court had a number of ways to refuse to entertain South Africa’s desecration of law and morality, period, and chose not to do so,” she argued.
Ahead of Friday’s preliminary ruling, an Israeli official told the Associated Press that Israeli officials were prepared for “all scenarios.”
Netanyahu joined top legal, diplomatic and security officials on Thursday to discuss the ruling. He also met with his war council later in the day.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy has said that Israel expects the court to toss the case before reaching a verdict.
“We expect the ICJ to throw out these spurious and specious charges,” Levy said Thursday.
In its case filing, South Africa claimed that the high death toll among Palestinians in Gaza and the intensity of Israel’s war in Gaza amounts to genocide and asked the judges to issue the preliminary hearing “as a matter of extreme urgency” to impose provisional measures to protect civilian lives. South Africa also requested the court to order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.”
On Thursday, South Africa’s foreign ministry said it was seeking an interim ruling from the court that “Israel immediately cease its military operations in Gaza, take reasonable measures to prevent the genocide of Palestinians, ensure that the displaced return to their homes and have access to humanitarian assistance, including adequate food, water, fuel, medical and hygiene supplies, shelter and clothing.”
Israel first invaded Gaza after Hamas, the terror group that governs the territory, launched a deadly surprise attack on Israeli border communities, killing some 1,200 people and abducting another 250 on October 7.
According to the Health Ministry, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed during the war. The ministry, which is run by Hamas, does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its death toll.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky, Yonat Friling and The Associated Press contributed to this report.