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ICJ finds genocide case against Israel 'plausible', orders it to stop violations

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The International Court of Justice stopped short of ordering Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza, but it did order Israel to take immediate steps to protect civilians in Gaza. That decision is part of a larger case brought to The Hague by South Africa, which alleges that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. In the conflict that began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killed some 1,200 people and took many hostages. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Tel Aviv. Eyder, thanks for being with us.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Why did the court not order a cease-fire?

PERALTA: You know, they didn't address that directly in their opinion, but some legal analysts doubt that the court even had the jurisdiction to order a cease-fire. But what the court did say is that the allegations that South Africa is making against Israel, mainly that Israel is committing acts of genocide in Gaza, were in the least plausible. And because of that, the court said that it needed to act even before it considers the merits of the case. So it issued what it calls a provisional order, telling Israelis - Israel to do everything it can to stop the death of more civilians in Gaza. And it ordered Israel to do everything it can to avoid committing genocide. Very shortly after the decision came down, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a defiant statement saying that any charges of genocide against Israel were, quote, "false and outrageous." Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: 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.

SIMON: Palestinians and other Israelis reacted to the decision.

PERALTA: So the Palestinian Authority said the court's orders were the beginning of, quote, "holding Israel accountable." I also spoke to Noura Erakat, Palestinian American human rights lawyer who teaches at Rutgers, and she said that even without calling for a cease fire, this was a significant move. Let's listen.

NOURA ERAKAT: The decision that they provided still provides the means for an international community to continue to agitate for that cease-fire or weapon sanctions on Israel for accountability.

PERALTA: And what she's saying is what's important is that the decision highlighted the inflammatory language being used by some Israeli officials and that by a wide margin, the court called for restraint. Here on the streets of Tel Aviv, the reaction was muted. Most people were disappointed, saying the court said little about the attack by Hamas and that it skirted the issue that they cared about the most, which is the release of the 132 hostages that Israel believes are still in Gaza. To be fair, the court did call for the hostages to be released. And I also found a solitary voice in Roni Amir, who is 25. Let's listen.

RONI AMIR: I think they took, like, the easy way. They don't care about people's lives, not in Gaza and not in Israel.

PERALTA: And she was protesting against the war in the middle of the city. And she wasn't popular. Lots of Israelis who were just walking by shouted insults at her as she protested

SIMON: Eyder, does this decision have any practical effect?

PERALTA: I mean, this is a case that can take years to work its way through this court. There's a similar case against Myanmar that was filed in 2019, and it is still waiting for a resolution. But more immediately, the court expressed a lot of concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. Almost the entire population of the Gaza Strip have been displaced, and they're going hungry. The court ordered Israel to allow humanitarian aid to flow more freely into Gaza. And this adds to the calls we've already heard from the U.S. and the U.N. and others. So we'll see if this makes a difference on that front.

SIMON: NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Tel Aviv. Eyder, thanks so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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