Israel recalls its ambassador from South Africa

Israel has recalled its ambassador in South Africa “for consultations”, Israel’s foreign ministry has said.

The move on Monday followed the “latest South African statements” on Israel, ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat said on X without giving specifics.

South Africa has been highly critical of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

On Tuesday, its MPs passed a motion recommending the Israeli embassy’s closure until there is a ceasefire and a commitment to negotiations.

The motion was passed in parliament by 248 votes to 91.

All lawmakers from the governing African National Congress supported it, but it is unclear whether the government will act on the recommendation.

Despite the objections of the presiding officer, some MPs chanted “free, free Palestine” after the motion was passed.

Israel launched a major military campaign in Gaza in response to a cross-border attack by hundreds of Hamas gunmen on 7 October, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 others taken hostage.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says at least 13,000 people have been killed in the territory since Israel launched its retaliatory campaign.

Israel has said that it is acting in self-defence and its aim is to eliminate Hamas and prevent another attack like the one last month.

The recall of Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotserkovsky came just before South Africa began hosting a virtual summit of the Brics group of nations, which includes China and Russia, on the Israel-Hamas war.

At its conclusion, the leaders of the Brics group of emerging economies called for an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce in Gaza.

China’s President Xi Jinping also called for the release of civilian detainees.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa denounced what he called the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin accused the US of blocking international efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

On Monday, South Africa urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December.

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said a failure to do so would signal a “total failure” of global governance.

South Africa, along with Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti, has submitted a referral to the ICC to investigate whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Gaza.

The UN Security Council has called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” for “a sufficient number of days” to allow UN agencies to safely enter the sealed-off territory.

South Africa recalled its diplomats from Israel earlier this month. There has been no South African ambassador in Israel for five years.

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