South African government lashes out at killing of civilians by Israel

Dirco calls for deployment of rapid protection force, says ICC must prosecute killing of children

30 October 2023 - 11:01 By TimesLIVE
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Buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 30 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza.
Buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 30 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza.
Image: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

The South African government on Monday called for Israel to be prosecuted for unlawful attacks on children and urged the deployment of a rapid protection force to protect civilians in Palestine from further bombardment.

Israel's war against Hamas militants, since it came under attack on October 7, has seen Gaza pounded by aerial bombings.

“It is estimated that over 80 entire families have been wiped out by Israeli armed action over the last three weeks. The numbers of non-combatants killed, especially the numbers of children killed, requires the world to show that it is serious about global accountability,” the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) said in a strongly worded denouncement of what it referred to as the “atrocities” taking place.

On Sunday, members of the family of a senior Palestinian diplomat based in Pretoria were killed in an Israeli air strike which hit their apartment building in Gaza, the department said. 

“Another member of the Palestinian community living in Johannesburg had 25 members of their family killed in an Israeli air strike this morning.”

The South African government, endorsing the UN General Assembly’s resolution, called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian corridor to provide food, medical supplies and fuel.

“South Africa also calls on the UN to deploy a rapid protection force to protect the civilian population from further bombardment. All countries genuinely committed to a rules-based system underpinned by international law must act immediately.”

Dirco referenced a Save the Children report that the number of children killed in Gaza over the last three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across all the world’s conflict zones since 2019.

Since October 7, more than 3,257 children are reported to have been killed, Save the Children said. This includes at least 3,195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank and 29 in Israel. These numbers are likely to go up given that more than 1,000 children are missing, with many trapped under ruins and rubble.

“All these children killed are non-combatants and those responsible for their deaths must be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and in the case of the scale of deaths in Gaza and increasingly in the West Bank, the crime of genocide must also be investigated,” Dirco said.

Noting the ICC has charged Russian president Vladimir Putin with unlawfully taking children out of Ukraine to Russia, Dirco said: “Consequently, the wilful killing of children in Gaza surely requires the ICC prosecutor to use his independent powers to initiate prosecutions urgently. Failure to do so will serve to exacerbate the growing cynicism that international criminal law is applied selectively for political purposes.”

Israel must be probed for breaches of international law, Dirco said.

“One of these crimes, the crime of genocide, sadly looms large.”

Dirco also lashed out at those who assert Israel has the right to defend itself using military means.

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

“The notion of Israel’s right to defend itself through military means has been used — erroneously by some and deliberately by others — to justify the unlawful use of force by Israel on people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Those that have encouraged and materially supported the unlawful use of force by Israel in the current situation should therefore be investigated for aiding and abetting the breaches of international law.”

International relations minister Naledi Pandor, speaking at the UN Security Council debate in New York last week, also called for urgent action to halt the bombardments.

“We all recall that in 1994 a genocide occurred on the African continent with much of the world watching as innocent people were massacred,” she said.

“History cannot keep repeating such cruelty. We should establish a system of global governance that is fair, equitable and has the capacity to respond to the needs of all persons in situations of threat and harm — a system that is not just a tool for the most powerful countries of the world but that provides protection for the most vulnerable.”


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