By John Ikani
Israel has recalled its ambassador in South Africa “for consultations” in response to the country’s strong criticism of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat said the recall was due to “the latest South African statements” on Israel, without providing further details.
South Africa has been a vocal critic of Israel’s actions in Gaza, urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December.
The recall of Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotserkovsky comes ahead of a virtual summit of the Brics group of nations, which includes China and Russia, on the Israel-Hamas war. The meeting, to be chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, aims to draw up a common response to the conflict.
In addition, South Africa’s parliament is expected to vote on whether to close the Israeli embassy and suspend all diplomatic relations until Israel agrees to a ceasefire and commits to UN-facilitated negotiations.
The governing African National Congress has agreed to the motion, but it remains unclear whether the party or the government will support it in parliament.
Israel launched a major military campaign in Gaza in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas gunmen in October, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people and the abduction of 240 others.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry claims that at least 13,000 people have been killed in the territory since Israel’s retaliation began.
The UN Security Council has called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” to allow UN agencies safe access to the sealed-off territory.
South Africa, a long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause, has criticized Israel’s response, calling it “collective punishment.”
Israel maintains that it is acting in self-defence and aims to eliminate Hamas and prevent future attacks like the one that occurred last month.
Along with Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti, South Africa has submitted a referral to the ICC to investigate whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Gaza.