Israel must take measures to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip, the International Court of Justice said on Friday, according to Al-Jazeera.

The top United Nations court, however, stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in the region.

The court said in an interim order that Israel must prevent and punish incitement to genocide in Gaza. Further, Tel Aviv must allow humanitarian aid into the region, it said.

Commenting on the order, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government would “continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people”. However, he added: “Our war is against Hamas terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians.”

South Africa filed the case before the International Court of Justice on December 29, alleging that Israel violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

After the verdict on Friday, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said she had hoped that the court would have ordered a ceasefire. However, she said that the measures laid down in the order could only be implemented if there is a ceasefire.

The International Court of Justice is based in the Hague, Netherlands, and is the legal body of the United Nations. The court settles disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on international legal issues.

South Africa had urged the international court to issue provisional measures calling for a ceasefire. The merits of the case of genocide will take years to decide.

More than 25,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7 amid Israel’s war on the besieged region. The war, triggered after the attack on southern Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, has entered its 12th week. Hamas’ attack on Israel had killed 1,200 people and the group had taken more than 200 hostages.

During the hearing, South Africa had told the court that Israel has violated the 1948 genocide convention created in the aftermath of the Holocaust – the mass slaughter of European Jews during World War II. The convention states that genocide is a crime under international law and mandates that all countries will prevent its recurrence.

Israel had, however, rejected the allegations made by South Africa. It alleged that Hamas has been using civilians in Gaza as human shields to execute its terror activities against Israel.

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and investigations by United Nations agencies, claiming that they are biased. However, this time, it decided to send a high-level legal team to the top United Nations court to defend its actions in Gaza.