The United Nations’ highest court said on Friday that Israel must take action to prevent acts of genocide by its forces in the Gaza Strip, adding to the international pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce death and destruction in the battered Palestinian enclave.

But the court did not rule on whether Israel was committing genocide, and it did not call on Israel to stop its military campaign to crush Hamas, as South Africa, which brought the case, had requested.

While the ruling had elements that each side could embrace, the court allowed the case charging Israel with genocide to proceed, which will likely keep the country under international scrutiny for years to come.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region, and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” Joan E. Donoghue, the president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, said as she announced the interim ruling. The decision also ordered the delivery of more humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and called for the release of hostages held by armed groups in Gaza.

The South Africans who argued the case this month have equated the oppression they faced under apartheid with the plight of Palestinians.

The genocide accusation is acutely sensitive for Israel, which was founded in 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Many Israelis argue that it is Hamas that should face charges of genocide after its attack on Oct. 7, when about 1,200 people were killed in Israel and about 240 were taken captive, according to Israeli officials.


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