How a Little Understood U.N. Court Became the Center of the Israel-Gaza Debate

How a Little Understood U.N. Court Became the Center of the Israel-Gaza Debate
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Israel denied the allegations, arguing that statements by Israeli government and military officials were taken out of context, and that its military has taken steps to preserve civilian lives. After the hearings, the Israeli government declassified a set of 30 secret orders which it said showed the effort to minimize casualties.


Just under a month after the case was filed, the court issued a series of “provisional measures,” similar to a temporary injunction, ordering Israel to refrain from genocidal acts, to prevent and punish incitement and to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The court, which stopped short of demanding that Israel halt its military offensive, also ordered Israel to send a report within one month detailing the measures it had taken to comply with the provisional measures, a deadline that expires Monday.

The other matter dates to early 2023, when the U.N. General Assembly requested that the court issue a nonbinding advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, following a General Assembly resolution on the same issue.

The hearings involve testimony from more than fifty countries, nearly all of which have been critical of Israel. South Africa garnered significant coverage for its testimony when it again advocated for Palestinian interests. The United States and Britain were the most prominent defenders of Israel, asking the court not to order an end to the occupation and arguing that doing so would place Israel’s security at risk.

Israel is mounting a defense in the genocide case, which is a particularly sensitive topic for the country. “Given the Jewish people’s history, it is not surprising that Israel was among the first states to ratify the Genocide Convention, without reservation,” Tal Becker, an Israeli lawyer, told the court in his opening statement.

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