The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, in its interim order on the war in Gaza delivered on Friday, stopped short of ordering Israel to pause or stop its devastating military operations there, a war which has claimed the lives of 26,800 Gazan civilians so far.

But the court’s recommendations (15 judges for and 2 against) would, in effect, mean that the Israeli military would have to conduct its operations in a ‘highly restrained and responsible manner’ so that unnecessary casualties and destruction of property are avoided and the situation does not become “catastrophic”.

As per the ruling, Israel is required to submit a report within a month showing that it is complying with the provisional measures. South Africa will have the chance to pick holes in Israel’s claims at that time.

The ICJ did not say that Israel is committing genocide, though it said that it took up the case under the Genocide Convention as demanded by South Africa.

The court rejected Israel’s contention that it did not have the jurisdiction to direct provisional measures. It also clearly stated that its findings are binding.

The court itself does not have the power to enforce the interim ruling, or indeed the final verdict, but its directives could influence the war in Gaza, experts said. Pressure has been mounting on Israel and its American sponsors, in recent weeks, as global calls for a ceasefire continue to pick up momentum.

‘Al Jazeera’ quotes Michael Becker, an assistant professor of international human rights law at Trinity College in Dublin, who also served as an associate legal officer at the ICJ from 2010 to 2014, as saying that the “ruling sends a strong message to Israel that the court views the situation as very serious and that Israel should do what it can to perform restraint in carrying out its military campaign.”

Since the ICJ has not ordered a ceasefire, Israel could continue the war that, it insists, is directed not against Gazans but against Hamas. It has said time and again that it will not rest until the last Hamas terrorist is eliminated.

Israel’s argument is that the October 7 attack by Hamas claimed 1,200 Israeli lives, and 240 others were abducted, an unpardonable terrorist act that could not go without being avenged.

Friday’s ruling does not determine whether Israel is committing genocide, or that it is intending to commit genocide, as South Africa has alleged. Judge Joan Donahue, the current president of the ICJ, said it will be decided later. He indicated that the situation could get “catastrophic” if some provisional measures that the court had recommended were not taken.

The ICJ ordered the following provisional measures:

Israel must take all measures possible to prevent the commission of all acts under Article II of the Genocide Convention in relation to Palestinians in Gaza. These are:

(a) stop killing members of the group (the Gazans); (b) stop causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (Gazans); (c) stop deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (d) stop imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

The ICJ specified that Israel must ensure “with immediate effect” that its military does not commit any of the aforementioned acts.

Israel must prevent and punish “the direct and public incitement to commit genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel must allow humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip.

Israel must ensure the preservation of, and prevent the destruction of, evidence related to acts under the scope of Article II and Article III of the Genocide Convention against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel must submit a report to the ICJ on all measures taken to uphold the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ within one month.

The ICJ did not call on Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza, which was one of the provisional measures South Africa had called for.

Welcoming the ruling, the Palestinian Authority said: “The ICJ ruling is an important reminder that no State is above the law or beyond the reach of justice.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Maliki said in a statement. “It breaks Israel’s entrenched culture of criminality and impunity, which has characterised its decades-long occupation, dispossession, persecution, and apartheid in Palestine.”

Hamas has welcomed the ruling calling for emergency measures against Israel over its war in Gaza. The Palestinian militant group also called on the international community to require Israel to implement the court’s decisions and stop what it called the continuing “genocide” against Palestinians.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said he hopes Israel will comply with the international court of justice’s ruling in the case against Israel. In a statement from Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief’s spokesperson, Guterres noted that decisions of the ICJ are binding and that he “trusts that all parties will duly comply with the Order from the Court.”

International reactions to the top UN court’s ruling were split along the lines of the war raging in the Palestinian territory. The ICJ ruling was welcomed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Spain. The EU said it expects Israel and Hamas to fully comply with the ICJ rulings. Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said Israel “must adhere” to the ruling but that Hamas also needs to release its remaining hostages.

Iran’s foreign minister called for Israeli authorities to face justice. But Israeli officials accused the ICJ of anti-semetic bias and expressed dismay that the case was not thrown out altogether.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in response to the ruling that his country is committed to upholding international law, as well as defending its people.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, who was cited by the court president for calling Palestinians “human animals” at the start of the Israeli offensive, said the court had gone “above and beyond” in granting South Africa’s “anti-semitic” request.

The United States continues to believe that allegations of genocide against Israel are “unfounded”, a state department spokesperson said.