In a stern warning issued on Monday, the South African government cautioned its citizens fighting for Israel in Gaza, asserting that they could face prosecution upon their return. The Ministry of International Relations & Cooperation expressed grave concern over reports indicating that some South African nationals have either joined or are contemplating joining the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
The ministry emphasized that such actions could potentially lead to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, making individuals liable for prosecution in South Africa. However, the exact number of South Africans involved in this matter remains unspecified, though the State Security Agency (SSA) has reportedly been tasked with tracking them down.
Highlighting the need for prior government approval, the ministry clarified that South Africans must obtain official authorization before engaging in any military activities in Israel. Naturalized citizens, it added, face additional risks, as they may be at the mercy of having their South African nationality revoked for participating in a conflict that the country neither supports nor agrees with.
The recent outbreak of conflict in Gaza, triggered by an unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on Israel on October 7, has led to significant casualties. According to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures, around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives, and another 250 have been abducted.
Contrastingly, Gaza’s health ministry reports a much higher toll, stating that Israel’s military response has resulted in the deaths of over 19,400 people, predominantly women and children, while causing extensive destruction to residential areas.
South Africa’s historical support for the Palestinian cause has been evident, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) consistently linking it to the country’s own struggle against apartheid. The government has openly condemned Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks, leading to the recall of all South African diplomats from the country.
In a press conference held on Monday in Johannesburg, President Cyril Ramaphosa once again denounced the conflict in Palestine as a “genocidal onslaught and slaughter of the people of Palestine,” reiterating the country’s longstanding stance on the matter. The government’s warning to citizens involved in the conflict underscores the complexities and legal implications surrounding South Africans participating in foreign military engagements.
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