South Africa

Cairo peace summit: Ramaphosa calls Israel-Gaza war an ‘affront to common humanity’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an immediate end to the Israel-Gaza conflict which, according to him, has been marred by “violations of international law” on Saturday during his address at the Cairo Summit for Peace, in Egypt.

“As South Africa, we hold the firm view that the attack on civilians in Israel, the ongoing siege of Gaza and the decision to forcibly move the people of Gaza, together with the indiscriminate use of force through bombing, are violations of international law,” the president said as the war raged into its third week.

Israel-Gaza war: Ramaphosa addresses Cairo Summit for Peace

Ramaphosa, who was invited to attend the peace summit by Arab Republic of Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, told the world leaders in attendance that “these acts are an affront to our common humanity”.

“More than that, these acts are an affront to our common humanity. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the release of hostages, the lifting of the siege of Gaza, opening of humanitarian corridors and the urgent provision of humanitarian aid on the required scale to the people of Gaza.

“We also call for a United Nations-led negotiation process towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Ramaphosa concluded.

In addressing the summit, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas, demanding global “action to end this godawful nightmare”.

ALSO READ: Solidarity march at Israeli Embassy: ANC members label Israel an apartheid state

First contingent of aid trucks enter Gaza

Ramaphosa’s peace summit address came just hours after a first contingent of 20 Egyptian Red Crescent trucks passed through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into southern Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid to the tiny war-torn Palestinian enclave.

What to know about the conflict in Gaza

The conflict broke out on 7 October when Hamas militants crossed the Gaza border into Israel, launching an unprecedented surprise attack in which at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and 203 taken hostage.

Israel launched a military campaign against the Islamist militant group which controls the Gaza Strip. More than 4,000 Palestinians have been killed during relentless bombings, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

While amassing troops to launch a ground attack on Hamas, Israel has ordered the evacuation of Palestinian civilians in north Gaza. It has also cut food, water, electricity and fuel supplies to the densely populated territory of 2.4 million people.

ALSO READ: ‘Sliver of hope’ as Hamas releases hostages, but Gaza aid stalled

Pandor under fire for Hamas call

ramaphosa cairo peace summit 2
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Minister Naledi Pandor (left) attend the Cairo Summit for Peace, in Egypt, on Saturday. Photo: Twitter @Presidency

Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Minister Naledi Pandor accompanied Ramaphosa on his Cairo Summit for Peace mission.

Earlier this week, a telephone conversation between Pandor and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was met with criticism.

Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Thursday, ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said it was well within Pandor’s “to speak to all interest groups in Palestine”.

“From where we are sitting at Luthuli House, we do not see anything remiss with that. There is no decision not to ever speak to Hamas.”

ANC’s historical ties with PLO

Bhengu-Motsiri, however, took pains to explain the historically close ties the ANC has maintained with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

“Our historic ally has always been the PLO, and the PLO, like any other liberation movements in various parts of the world, unfolds as it unfolds,” she said.

WATCH: ANC members call on Ramaphosa to close Israeli embassy

The ANC, SACP and Cosatu joined various civil society and faith-based organisations in a march to the Israeli embassy, in Pretoria, on Friday.

The march in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, was meant to highlight their plight and call for urgent peace talks.

ANC Youth League President Collen Malatji, however, called on Ramaphosa to close the Israeli embassy.

“We are here today, and we are told that the ambassador of Israel is not here. Now we are calling upon the president of the ANC and that of the country, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, to immediate expel them,” Malatji told the crowd.

“If the president doesn’t remove them by Friday, we are coming back here on Friday to occupy these buildings.”

“We are calling upon all companies of Israel to immediately leave South Africa, starting with that Woolworths that you love so much,” said Malatji.

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