The South African Embassy in Palestine is engaged in efforts to assist South Africans who wish to return home amid escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. At least 220 Palestinians, including 63 children, have been killed in Gaza since the violence flared in early May.
Twelve people in Israel have died, including two children.
This comes as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has launched a 24-hour hotline that can assist South Africans with information about their relatives in Gaza.
Palestinian Embassy commends SA authorities:
Palestine is once again a bloody battlefield, with the latest hostilities taking place alongside the global COVID-19 health crisis.
Diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine have failed as the loss of lives escalate. South African citizens who have chosen to work in that country have not been allowed to leave.
Video: UN SG calls for immediate stop to Israel-Gaza violence
Former South African Ambassador to Palestine, Ashraf Suliman says the situation is alarming for South Africans in Gaza. Speaking to SABC News from Palestine, Suliman says every effort is being made to repatriate South Africans.
“It’s extremely difficult and emotionally drenching. There are different rules for South Africans who come to the state of Palestine. There are people who are working here, we have teachers working. At this moment in time, South Africans living in Gaza cannot leave. We have a lady who wants to come back home and we are trying to find ways and mechanisms. Even if we make a recommendation to the Israelis and say, ‘this is a South African citizen living in Gaza and we would like them to come through the Arab check points and take a flight,’ they wouldn’t allow it; period.”
Calls for boycott on Israeli products
The South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) is calling for the boycott of Israeli products in the country.
SAMNET Chairperson, Dr Faisal Suliman, equated the killings in Gaza to apartheid South Africa’s killing of freedom fighters.
“The ongoing theft of Palestinian homes and land is part of Israel’s greater plan to take over Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank. This is against international law, it is a land grab backed by a racist ideology. No wonder the Palestinians are resisting and they are being met with the brutality which is reminiscent of the apartheid forced in the townships.”
Video: Palestine appeals to the international community to stop Israeli aggression
Suliman says there are a number of efforts underway in South Africa, by civil society organisations, in the form of petitions and relief efforts to assist the people of Palestine.
“At the moment, people are collecting funds so they can provide medical relief aid for Palestinians whose families have been killed. Hospitals have been bombed in Gaza, lab testing for COVID have been bombed. There are different organisations looking at organising marches. Also galvanising public opinion towards identifying products that would be worth calling for a boycott and cause pressure of our own government to put pressure on Israel and expel the Israeli Ambassador.”
SA government condemns attacks
The South African government has condemned the attacks on Palestinian civilians. It called on Israel to end hostilities and comply with international law.
“South African calls on all countries in the Middle East to respond positively to the Arab League Foreign Ministers plan to immediately convene an emergency meeting aimed at mediation. We also call on the United Nations Security Council to convene an urgent meeting between Israel and Palestine to discuss the peace process without any pre-conditions,” Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation Clayson Monyela says.
South Africans with family currently trapped in Gaza can connect to the 24-hour DIRCO hotline for updated information.
“DIRCO has established a 24-hour operation centre for South Africans who may be worried or anxious about their family members in the Middle East. They can contact us on 012 351 100. That number is accessible around the clock. We will be able to share information with them and provide updates,” Monyela says.
The United States has blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a joint statement urging an end to the violence. It says a public statement will not calm the tensions.
France, however, has said they are working with Egypt and Jordan on a new ceasefire resolution.
China has supported the French proposal.
Video: UNSC’s second emergency session on Israeli-Palestine conflict fails