South Africa’s government announced on Monday that it would return all of its diplomats from Israel in order to “signal” its concern about the situation in Gaza.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, a minister in the president’s office, told a press conference that all diplomatic workers in Tel Aviv will be ordered to return to Pretoria for consultations, but did not elaborate.
“We are… extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment,” Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told a later press conference.
“We felt it important that we do signal the concern of South Africa while continuing to call for a comprehensive cessation (of hostilities)”.
Fighting has raged in the Gaza Strip for nearly a month, ever since Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented onslaught across the border into Israel on October 7.
Since the incident, during which Hamas held more than 240 people hostage, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel.
In retaliation, Israel has repeatedly pummeled Gaza and sent in ground soldiers, killing almost 9,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has long been a vociferous supporter of the Palestinian cause, frequently tying it to its own struggle against apartheid.
Pandor described the diplomats’ recall as “normal practice,” adding that the envoys will provide a “full briefing” on the situation to the government, which will then decide whether it can be of assistance or whether a “continued relationship is actually able to be sustained.”