Palestinians in Gaza say they are devastated by the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision not to order Israel to cease its near-four-month bombardment and ground invasion of the strip during a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide.
On Friday, the World Court issued a series of provisional measures requiring Israel to comply with the 1948 Genocide Convention, allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza and act against those who issue genocidal statements.
But the court fell short of ordering an immediate ceasefire or insisting that Israel cease all military activity in the strip.
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Many in Gaza say they are disappointed, but not surprised. They say they do not trust the international community, nor the global justice system, as they have so far failed to end the bloodshed in the enclave.
More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7 and some 1.9 million have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
Among them is 54-year-old Ahmed al-Naffar, who was intently following the court’s announcement outside the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in central Gaza’s Deir el-Balah on Friday.
“Although I don’t trust the international community, I had a small glimmer of hope that the court would rule on a ceasefire in Gaza,” al-Naffar told Al Jazeera.
His high hopes came crashing down when he heard the precautionary decisions that emerged from the court’s session. He refused to continue listening in, saying, “The court is a failure.”
The father of six has been displaced and is currently sheltering in the hospital’s courtyard, along with hundreds of other Palestinians.
“It’s shocking that, unfortunately, no one can handle calling for a ceasefire. Everyone is watching our annihilation without taking action to push for a serious ceasefire,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We do not want aid or food. We want a ceasefire, an end to the war, and a return to Gaza [City].”
‘Let them kill us all and relieve us of this torment’
Earlier this month, South Africa asked the ICJ to order an emergency suspension of Israel’s devastating military campaign in Gaza.
It argued that provisional measures are necessary “to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention, which continue to be violated with impunity”.
South Africa filed nine injunctions to the court. Among them was one that would also direct Israel to facilitate and not impede the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Currently, the aid coming into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing meets less than 30 percent of the enclave’s needs, Gaza’s health ministry has said. Both the quantity and type of aid are controlled by Israel, which has imposed a complete siege on Gaza since the start of the offensive.
Al-Naffar said he feels especially disappointed for his wife and five daughters.
“I don’t know what to say to my daughters who were left alone in Gaza City under these frightening conditions,” he said.
He was forced to leave Gaza City when Israeli forces arrested him and his 19-year-old son at their home on November 20. They remained in Israeli detention for 24 hours.
During that time, al-Naffar said, they were interrogated, “severely beaten” and mistreated before they were eventually released and ordered to make their way to the south of the Strip.
Al-Naffar called his daughters earlier today, promising them that the court’s decision would be “positive and in our favour”, and that it would likely rule to end the assault.
“But I was wrong,” he said. “I feel sad and frustrated. I hope we all die, let them kill us all. Let them drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza and relieve us of this torment.”
Being separated from his family, al-Naffar spent most of his day thinking about them and trying to reach out to them.
“My girls are alone with their mother. They desperately need me to be by their side in such horrific circumstances.”
‘No one can stop Israel’
Meanwhile, displaced Palestinian Mohammad al-Minawi said he felt it was pointless to even listen to the ICJ’s ruling.
The 45-year-old father of five is currently sheltering in a tent outside the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital. He was forced to flee his home in the al-Mughraqa area, east of Gaza City, when it came under attack.
Like hundreds of thousands of others, he headed south as per the Israeli military’s instructions.
“I am not optimistic … Unfortunately, no one can stop Israel,” al-Minawi told Al Jazeera.
He nonetheless expressed his gratitude to South Africa, describing what it did in filing its lawsuit against Israel as “unprecedented”. But, he added that in his opinion, if other countries remain silent, then the move is insufficient.
“There is no deterrent for Israel. All international and diplomatic decisions support it, and there is no accountability,” al-Minawi said.
If Israel cared about international law, its forces wouldn’t have killed “so many women and children in Gaza and destroyed all of our homes,” he said.
“Everyone says ‘we will send aid.’ Israel is killing us and you are pressing to send aid? How about providing us with protection.”
‘We will be exterminated in a month’
Israel has dismissed the accusation of genocide, and frequently boycotts international tribunals and UN investigations, alleging they are unfair and biased.
The ICJ has required Israel to submit a report in one month outlining the steps it is taking to show it is complying with the provisional measures ordered on Friday. South Africa will then be given the opportunity to respond to this report.
While Israel will come under more scrutiny over how it conducts its military assault on Gaza, it will not be violating the court’s decision by continuing its bombardment.
“How can Israel be given a full month to submit a report on not targeting civilians? We will all be exterminated during this month,” al-Minawi said.
Several rights organisations and international bodies have urged Israel to protect civilian life, but the majority of victims in Gaza have been innocent women and children, people in the strip have said.
At least 183 people have been killed and 377 wounded throughout the enclave in the past 24 hours alone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Since October 7, Israel’s attacks have targeted medical facilities, healthcare workers and ambulances, as well as thousands of internally displaced people sheltering inside hospitals and UN-run facilities.
‘The whole world approves of our annihilation’
The military assault and the blockade on the strip have especially affected pregnant women in Gaza, many of whom have been forced to give birth in dangerous and unsanitary conditions amid the collapse of the healthcare sector.
Tahrir Sheikh Khalil is among the thousands of women who are currently pregnant amid a severe lack of food and clean water. She is now staying in a tent near the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, along with her husband and five children.
Her husband was listening to the ICJ’s judgement on Friday. Shortly before the verdict, Khalil said her husband was “optimistic”, but she was not.
“I am not optimistic about anything,” the 35-year-old who fled Shati refugee camp, told Al Jazeera.
Her husband, 40-year-old Hassan Khalil, was hoping he would have been able to “immediately” return to Gaza City if the ICJ had ordered an immediate ceasefire.
“We fled to five places before we ended up here. First, to UNRWA schools in the city centre, then to the al-Maghazi area, then to an area on Maghazi Roads, and now we’re here in Deir al-Balah,” Tahrir said.
“What is happening will not change anything about our suffering. War, killing, and destruction will continue,” she added.
The couple echoed the sentiments of everyone else around them, saying, “We don’t want them to bring in aid.” They once again called for a lasting ceasefire.
“We are living in tragic conditions here and we cannot continue living in these conditions,” Hassan said.
“We have no one to support us. No one can stop Israel, no court decisions or UN resolutions. As long as the US supports Israel, we will continue to suffer,” he said.
The United States has continued to provide military aid upon which Israel is reliant to continue its offensive. The US has also provided diplomatic support, and has vetoed several UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“The whole world approves of our annihilation. That’s the sum of things,” Tahrir said.
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