Within one fortnight of hearing the pleadings, the International Court of Justice, the UN's top judicial body, has passed an order of provisional measures in which it demands that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive in the tiny coastal enclave.

South Africa brought the case, which goes to the core of one of the world's most intractable conflicts, and had asked the court to order Israel to halt its operation. In the highly anticipated decision made by a panel of 17 judges, the International Court of Justice decided not to throw out the case - and ordered six so-called provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza. South Africa also asked for Israel to take "reasonable measures" to prevent genocide and allow access for desperately needed aid. The court ruled that Israel must try to limit death and damage.

On the eve of the judgement, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he hoped the decision would "include immediate action to stop the aggression and genocide against our people in the Gaza Strip ... and a rapid flow of relief aid to save the hungry, wounded and sick from the threat of slow death that threatens them." Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy had said that Israel expected the court to toss out the "spurious and specious charges."

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and UN investigations, saying they are unfair and biased. But this time, it took the rare step of sending a high-level legal team - a sign of how seriously it regards the case and likely the fear that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country's international standing.

Provisional measures by the world court are legally binding, but it is not clear if Israel will comply with them. How the US, Israel's top ally, responds to any order will be key, since it wields veto power at the U.N. Security Council and thus could block measures there aimed at forcing Israel's compliance. The U.S. has said Israel has the right to defend itself, but also spoken about the need for the country to protect civilians in Gaza and allow more aid in.

The genocide case strikes at the national identity of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II. South Africa's own identity is key to it bringing the case. Its governing party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule, which restricted most Black people to "homelands" before ending in 1994. Fighting to free lands on opposite corners of the earth, we both achieved the salvation of our people.

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