JOHANNESBURG: South Africa on Friday hailed a ruling by the United Nations’ top court that Israel should do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague handed down its verdict in a landmark case brought by Pretoria also ordering Israel to allow humanitarian access to the Palestinian territory.

“Today marks a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people,” South Africa’s ministry of foreign affairs said.

“The decision is a momentous one,” it added, thanking the court for its “swift ruling”.

South Africa has accused Israel of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention — set up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust — during its military campaign in Gaza, sparked by the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

The court did not pass judgement on whether or not Israel is actually committing genocide but handed down emergency orders while it considers the wider accusation — a process that is likely to take years.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling council of the ruling African National Congress party erupted in cheers, singing and dancing after judges read the order.

Ramaphosa was due to make a speech on the ruling later Friday.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee suspended a meeting to watch a broadcast from the court, and live footage from the event showed senior party and government figures celebrating.

The case, and their government’s involvement in it, has also generated public interest in South Africa, where many have sympathy for the Palestinian quest for statehood.

In Cape Town and Pretoria, AFP reporters found people gathering to watch the ruling, which was carried in full on state television. As the ICJ judge announced the provisional measures, applause erupted among a diverse crowd of about 30 gathered in a community centre in Cape Town, some wearing earrings and colours in support of Palestine.

“We are discussing the extent to which it can have an impact... For now it is a step in the right direction,” said medical student Kwezi Zwane, 24, as attendees embraced and commented on the ruling. The ICJ’s rulings are binding on all parties but it has no mechanism to enforce them. Sometimes they are completely ignored.


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