Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mshabane, on international developments,
with specific focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town, 20 November 2012:
The South African Government is gravely concerned at the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza. We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries on both sides, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children.
The South African Government calls on both sides to immediately halt all cross border attacks and agree to a ceasefire. Israeli air and naval forces must cease their airstrikes and shelling into the Gaza enclave, which has already caused considerable material destruction in one of the most densely inhabited places on earth. We also call upon Palestinian militants in Gaza to immediately suspend the firing of rockets into Israeli territory.
An ominous development is the decision by the Israeli Government to call up 75 000 military reservists to active service, which would seem to imply that a large- scale ground assault by the Israeli army into Gaza is being seriously contemplated. The South African Government accordingly appeals to the Government of Israel to refrain from such a fatal step, which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israelis lives – but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region.
At the heart of the conflict lies Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, especially the continuing blockade of Gaza. The South African Government therefore urges the Israeli Government to halt these policies as they are an obstacle to negotiations for peace and contrary to international law.
The South African Government further calls on the international community to put pressure on both Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt this escalation of violence, given that as close neighbours, they have no choice but to accept each other’s permanent presence and eventually reach agreement on peaceful co-existence through a process of negotiations, rather than through continuous conflict.