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South Africa calls for comprehensive ceasfire, opening of humanitarian corridors in Gaza

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor delivers a speech during a session of the Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva on March 1, 2022   -  
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South Africa

South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister called for ceasefire in the Gaza war as she addressed Tuesday (Nov. 07) the National Assembly.

This came one day after Pretoria recalled its diplomatic mission to Israel.

November 7th also marked one month since Hamas militants stormed across the Gaza border in the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 239 others, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli operation launched in response to the attack has so far killed over 10,000 people in Gaza, 40% of these victims being children.

"This cannot be tolerated; this brutality should not be accepted. We must call for a ceasefire now as honourable members of the house of South Africa," South African minister Naledi Pandor said.

During her address to members of Parliament on Israel's war with Hamas, the official also rebutted accusations of alleged bias in favour of Hamas: "It is untrue that South Africa has not criticized Hamas or its breach of international human rights law.," Pandor said.

"[...] the president stated very clearly, in concert with the Secretary General of the United Nations, that the killing of civilians and the taking of hostage is a violation of international human rights law. We must be accurate in all our contributions."

Calls for accountability

“As an occupying power, Israel can use tools applicable to the rule of law, including policing powers, to deal with criminal actions in the area it occupies. An occupying state cannot exercise control over territory it occupies, and simultaneously attack that territory on the claim that it is foreign and poses an exogenous national security threat,” Pandor said.

The minister also called for the International Criminal Court to hold Israel accountable for violations of international criminal law as it pursues its ground offensive and airstrikes on Gaza.

"The murder of children, of women and the aged by Israel is an act that should have resulted in the International Criminal Court issuing an immediate arrest warrant for key decision makers including Mr Netanyahu, who is responsible for violations of international criminal law."

Naledi Pandor's call echoes those of Algeria's President or the Prime Minister of the Palestinian authority.

On Monday, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it is committing against Palestinians in Gaza. On that same day, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials over the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. 

On October 31st, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a complaint for war crimes committed against Palestinian journalists in Gaza – the third such complaint since 2018 – and against an Israeli journalist, killed and wounded in the course of their work. The NGO said the reporters were "the victims of attacks amounting – at the very least – to war crimes justifying an investigation by the prosecutor" of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Prosecutor Khan, who was on a mission to the region in late October said he had intensified his efforts to get into Gaza and Israel to meet with victims' families but had so far been unsuccessful.

The families of nine Israeli victims of last month's Hamas attacks also lodged a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for suspected war crimes.

ICC says it is a  " court of last resort" and as such "seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts."

"Reform of global governance"

“As South Africans, we need to raise our voices and call for the following concrete actions to end the suffering. One, an immediate comprehensive ceasefire. Two, The opening of humanitarian corridors so that aid and other basic services reach all in need. Three, all parties to exercise restraint and to desist from fuelling this patently unjust war and human suffering," she said.

South Africa's top diplomat also urged for a "reform of the system of global governance" that would "provide protection for the most vulnerable".

"We support a two-state solution. This means we believe Israel has the right to exist as a state alongside a state of Palestine. This has been the long-standing view of the African National Congress before anyone expressed the view on Palestine,” she added.

Israel like Russia or the United States is not a member of the ICC. It refused to cooperate with the court in 2021 over war crimes investigation into the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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