ISRAEL has been ordered to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

It comes after South Africa filed a case against Israel last month accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza.

Representatives of both sides laid out their legal arguments in The Hague on January 11 and 12 in hearings that were watched worldwide.

The UN's top court rejected Israel's request to suspend the genocide case. 

On Friday, the court – which stopped short of ordering a ceasefire – said Israel must ensure its forces do not commit genocide and ensure preservation of evidence of alleged genocide. 

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Israel must also take measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide in the Gaza Strip, the court's president judge Joan Donoghue announced.

Israel was also told to take immediate, effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in the  Gaza Strip.

“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,” Donoghue said.

Israel must report to the court within a month on what it is doing to uphold the order to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.

Top of the South African list of provisional measures was a request for the court to order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza”, but it declined to do that.

ICJ rulings are binding and cannot be appealed against, but the court has no power to enforce them.

As Israel did attend the court to defend itself, it makes it more difficult for the nation to simply dismiss the verdict.

The ruling given does not address the fundamental question of whether Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide, a deliberation that will take years.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said it welcomed the ICJ’s orders, calling them an "important reminder" that no state is above the law.

Donoghue said the court noted that the military operation conducted by Israel has resulted "in a large number of deaths and injuries" as well as massive destruction of homes, the forcible displacement of the vast majority of the population and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure.

She then cited a statement by senior UN official Martin Griffiths saying “Gaza has become a place of death and despair”.

Donoghue said the court recognised the Palestinians’ right to be protected from acts of genocide.

Several countries came out in support of South Africa's case including Brazil, Malaysia, the Maldives, Bolivia, Belgium and Pakistan. 

Palestine solidarity supporters marched to the ICJ ahead of the court delivering its ruling. 

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Jonathan Shafi, a campaigner with Stop the War coalition, said: "The ICJ finds that South Africa has standing to bring genocide case against Israel.

"We may be witnessing something historic. Every single politician and state who has aided, abetted and equivocated on the crimes against the Palestinian people will be forever shamed."

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned South Africa's case as "hypocrisy and lies" earlier this month.

Lawyers for Israel argued throughout the hearing earlier this month that the provisional measures requested by South Africa “cannot stand” because Israel has the right to defend itself following attacks by Hamas.

More than 26,000 people – including 10,000 children – have been killed in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave said on Friday.

The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its death toll, but has said about two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

UN officials have expressed fears that even more people could die from disease, with at least one-quarter of the population facing starvation.