South Africa Urges Rapid Defense Force to Protect Palestinians From Israeli Bombardment
11:14 30.10.2023 (Updated: 12:28 30.10.2023)
After Hamas' attack on 7 October, Israel launched retaliatory strikes and ordered a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip. As a result of the escalation, the death toll among Palestinians has exceeded 8,000, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Pretoria has called on the UN to establish a rapid protection force to protect Palestinian civilians from further bombardment by Israel, South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement
The ministry in its statement pointed to a Save the Children report that claimed that the number of children killed in Gaza in the past three weeks has exceeded the number of children killed each year in all conflict zones around the world since 2019.
"Since 7 October, more than 3,250 children are reported to have been killed. This includes at least 3,195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank and 29 in Israel. Children make up more than 40 percent of the 7,703 people killed in Gaza," the ministry said.
With this in mind, the South African foreign policy office emphasized that those responsible for the death of children
must be held accountable for "war crimes, crimes against humanity" and, as for Gaza and the West Bank, "the crime of genocide must also be investigated".
The South African authorities have therefore asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an urgent criminal investigation into the premeditated killing of children.
Pretoria described the scale of deaths in the Gaza Strip as "the result of unlawful actions by Israel" which does not have the "right to defend itself using military means as Israel is an occupying power" under the laws of occupation, which forms part of the law of armed conflict.
"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 external national security threat," the ministry noted. "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 the people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank."
Elaborating on the issue, the ministry emphasized that parties that encouraged and supported Israel's use of force must be held accountable for "aiding and abetting the breaches of international law."
The ministry also stressed that some nations have sought to underestimate the number of casualties resulting from Israel's armed actions.
"While we cite numbers - which some world leaders shamefully sought to minimize - as a means to illustrate the scale of the atrocities, this should not mask the very real human tragedy. Entire generations of families have been wiped out in Gaza over the past three weeks," the authorities stated.
At the end of the statement, the South African Department of Foreign Affairs reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire
and the opening of a humanitarian corridor for food, medicine and fuel.
On 7 October, Hamas launched a large-scale surprise rocket attack from Gaza into Israel, breaching the border and killing and abducting people in neighboring Israeli communities. Israel launched retaliatory strikes and ordered a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to more than two million people, cutting off supplies of water, food and fuel. The blockade was later eased to allow trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The number of victims in the Gaza Strip, according to the local Ministry of Health, exceeded 8,000 people with more than 18,000 injured. In Israel, according to local authorities, more than 1,400 people were killed, including 300 military personnel, and more than 5,000 were injured.