Canada will continue to closely follow the case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Friday following an interim ruling that ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza.
The ruling did not order a ceasefire. It also called on Hamas to release hostages taken in its deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel and represents a closely watched step in a legal process that could take years to fully play out.
“Canada supports the ICJ’s critical role in the peaceful settlement of disputes and its work in upholding the international rules-based order,” Joly said in a statement. “Our support for the ICJ does not mean that we accept the premise of the case brought by South Africa. It is for the ICJ to make a final decision on the case, which it has not done today. We continue to follow the case very closely.”
Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not stop to answer reporters’ questions about the ruling on Parliament Hill.
Joly’s statement, issued hours after the ruling, repeated language previously used by the federal government that its critics have called “incomprehensible” in response to the case brought by South Africa that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians.
A federal government source previously told Global News the statements should not be interpreted to mean Canada is taking a definitive stance on whether it supports or dismisses South Africa’s case.
The highest court of the United Nations on Friday ordered six measures to limit casualties in the Gaza Strip and ensure the preservation of evidence as the court continues deeper probing of the allegation of genocide against the Palestinians. The final ruling is expected to take years.
Judges on the court ruled against Israel’s request to throw out the case brought by South Africa altogether.
The ruling amounted to a rebuke of Israel’s conduct in Gaza and added to mounting international pressure to halt the nearly four-month-old military offensive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the case “outrageous,” vowed to press on with the campaign against Hamas.
Israel’s ambassador in Canada said Friday the country has tried to limit casualties but cannot stop its fight with Hamas.
Get the latest National news.
Sent to your email, every day.
“Hamas inflicted the worst massacre on the Jewish people since the Second World War,” Iddo Moed told Global News.
“Hamas vowed to do this again and again and again. So we have to wage this war. We don’t have a choice. We are, however, doing as much as we can to alleviate the conditions of those who are suffering under this war.“
Mona Abuamara, chief representative of the Palestinian General Delegation in Canada, said the ruling is not the end of their efforts.
“We would have loved to see the court explicitly demand Israel end its hostilities against the defenceless people in Gaza. But, it was the second best option,” Abuamara said Friday.
Before Joly issued her statement, and after the ICJ’s ruling, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East called on the government to clearly state Ottawa’s position.
“CJPME insists that Canada must now take a stand in support of the court’s ruling, following weeks of confusing and contradictory statements,” the pro-Palestinian group said in a statement.
The group later called Joly’s statement “shameful and inadequate.”
Human rights groups Amnesty International and Oxfam also urged Canada to take a stronger position on Friday, with Oxfam calling on Joly to suspend all arms transfers to Israel in response to the ICJ ruling.
Liberal MPs are divided on how Canada should respond.
Liberal MP Salma Zahid said Friday in Ottawa that she would first read the ICJ’s interim ruling, but said Canada must comply with all orders from the international court and bring other countries together to help respond to the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
Her colleague Anthony Housefather called South Africa’s case to the ICJ “baseless and insulting,” and said he believes the international tribunal sets the bar very low for deciding whether there is a possible case of genocide.
“Israel respects international law and Israel will continue to respect it,” the Montreal MP told reporters Friday.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, whose party has rejected South Africa’s case as baseless, has called the language used by Joly and Trudeau on the ICJ case “incomprehensible.”
“You would need a linguist with a PhD and a magnifying glass to figure out the garble that comes out of the foreign minister and the prime minister on this question, because they’re deliberately giving answers that no one can comprehend,” he told reporters in West Vancouver earlier this month.
Many of Canada’s allies, including the United States, have also dismissed South Africa’s claims of genocide in Gaza.
Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has destroyed large parts of the Palestinian enclave and killed more than 26,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which doesn’t differentiate between Hamas fighters and civilians.
The offensive came in response to Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, which Israel says killed roughly 1,200 people.
South Africa has said while it condemns Hamas for its attacks, there is no justification for the scale of Israel’s response in Gaza.
— With files from the Canadian Press
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.