The African Union (AU) on Tuesday strongly condemned Monday’s killing of 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip by Israeli armed forces.
In a statement, African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat slammed the“disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army.”
“The relocation of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem can only further heighten tensions in the region and complicate the search for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mahamat added.
The pan-African body reiterated its solidarity with the Palestinian people in “their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
Thousands of Palestinians had gathered on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border since Monday morning to take part in protests aimed at commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe) and to protest the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since protests began on March 30, more than 90 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by Israeli live ammunition, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Monday’s massacre was the bloodiest day in the Gaza Strip since 2014 when Israel attacked the blockaded coastal enclave in a military operation codenamed Operation Protective Edge.
South Africa praised for withdrawing ambassador
Palestinian and South African political and civil groups have welcomed Pretoria’s decision on Monday to withdraw its ambassador to Israel in light of Israel’s continuing massacre of unarmed protesters in Gaza.
Hamas hoped that the withdrawal of the South African ambassador will lead to the downgrading of diplomatic relations, and ultimately, the complete severing of ties between Israel and South Africa. “We further call on other nations to adopt the brave stance of the South African government,” said the Palestinian resistance movement in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is a strong message of support for the Palestinian people and rejection of Israeli crimes and practices against our people,” said Jibril al-Rajoub, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee.
The Council on International Relations, a Gaza-based think-thank, called the South African decision “an important step amid the global inaction toward the successive crimes of occupation against the Palestinian people.”
Reactions in South Africa
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) applauded the South African government for the recall of Pretoria’s envoy and reiterated its support for the resolution taken at the ANC’s 54th National Conference to downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office.
While opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) welcomed the decision to recall the ambassador, it has called on the South African government to expel the Israeli ambassador to South Africa and implement full-scale boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
“The South African democratic government, being a key beneficiary of international boycotts on apartheid, must take the lead. The expulsion of the Israeli mission must form part of the first move towards an international isolation of Israel by the whole world. The boycotts and isolation of Israel by the world is the most efficient, and yet, peaceful way of forcing the apartheid Israeli government to respect human rights of Palestinians,” said EFF spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called on BRICS, G77, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and AU member states to also isolate Israel for its continued violations of international law.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) said that more needs to be done to hold Israel accountable, and demanded the immediate expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa and the severing of all trade ties between the two countries.