MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Ramaphosa calls for opening of Gaza humanitarian corridor, end to rampant Israel-Hamas violence
President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a call for the immediate cessation of violence between Israel and Hamas as attacks escalate.
The presidency has condemned the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict where thousands of people have died, 340,000 have been displaced and 7,000 injured during conflict in the Middle Eastern territory.
In a statement issued on Thursday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the international community to accelerate its support towards establishing a viable Palestinian State. He believes that Palestine and Israel should co-exist in peace alongside the 1967 internationally recognised borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
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“Our thoughts are with all the victims’ families and loved ones during this perilous period of fighting. We remain gravely concerned at the devastating escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the atrocities committed against civilian populations.
“We call for the immediate cessation of violence and the exercise of restraint. It is vital that all those who require urgent humanitarian assistance are provided with the basic life-supporting necessities and that human suffering is ameliorated,” according to President Ramaphosa.
The President has also called for immediate and unconditional opening of humanitarian corridors.
The South African government also offered to mediate in the conflict after it erupted at the weekend.
“South Africa stands ready to work with the international community and to share our experience in mediation and conflict resolution as we have done on the continent and around the world,” Ramaphosa said.
There is wide interest in the Middle East conflict in South Africa with Daily Maverick reporting on how lobby groups for both the Israeli and Palestinian causes are extremely vocal and active.
The governing ANC has always had a close relationship with Palestine and this week commented in support of it.
South Africans have been caught up on both sides of the violence between Palestine and Israel.
On the Israeli side, grandmother Marcelle Talia (65), who was born and raised in Wepener in the Free State, was shot dead last Saturday by Hamas in the kibbutz Ein HaShlosha, close to the border with the Gaza Strip, according to the South African Jewish Report.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Haidar Eid, a South African-Palestinian dual national literature professor, living and working in Gaza with his wife and two young daughters, said he was trapped in Gaza after his flat was bombed during Israel’s retaliation for the Hamas attack.
Marcelle Talia was visiting the Ein HaShlosha kibbutz to help her son-in-law, Dor Ben Tsur, by looking after his two children while their mother Liora was in hospital after giving birth to the couple’s third child, Asif, the day before.
“We are totally distraught, devastated,” Talia’s close family relative, ex-South African Barbara Meltz-Kahn, told the SA Jewish Report from Jerusalem.
“Marcelle was a busy, happy, kind person. To be murdered for being Jewish in the Jewish homeland is impossible to comprehend,” she said.
The family said Talia left her guest room and tried to get to her grandchildren on the kibbutz, despite incessant messages warning everyone to stay put and take cover.
They suspect she might have switched off her phone, as most observant Jews do on the Sabbath.
Her sons Betzalel and Dididia later found her bullet-riddled body on the path between her guest room and her daughter and son-in-law’s nearby home.
Talia and her late husband, Yaakov, who was originally from Randfontein, met in Israel after they both emigrated there years ago. They established a farm on a hilltop near Beit Yatir, importing sheep from South Africa, and had four children, the SA Jewish Report said.
In Gaza, where he is living with his wife and two daughters, Haidar Eid said: “My flat was bombed by apartheid Israel. Israel has said Gazans must leave.
“This is exactly what the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to say two days ago … But we can’t go anywhere because the border was bombed. Rafah is the only exit to the external world, between Gaza and Egypt. And it was bombed.
“The other six crossings are controlled by apartheid Israel. We have no food, no electricity and water. And hospitals are bombed. And then the international community is standing idle, supporting apartheid Israel and blaming the victim.
“What is going on right now is genocide. The international law defines genocide and it is exactly what is happening to us right now.”
Eid was speaking in a voice note distributed by the Palestine Media Group in SA. It said he was born in Gaza but lectured at Vista University in Soweto for many years before returning to Gaza, where he is now working as an associate professor of literature at Al-Aqsa University. He is also a musician.
“He is a regular visitor to South Africa when he can get permission from Israel (which controls the border between Egypt and Gaza) to leave the Gaza Strip.”
Meanwhile, the SA Jewish Report also reported that the South African-born head of World Mizrachi, Rabbi Doron Perez, and his wife, Shelley, were waiting anxiously for news of their 22-year-old son, Daniel, an Israeli soldier who has not been heard from since Hamas overran his base on Saturday.
Mizrachi is the global Religious Zionist movement dedicated to strengthening the bond between the international Jewish community and Israel.
The Perez family lived in Johannesburg before emigrating to Israel several years ago. The older son, Yonatan, also a soldier, was shot in the leg during the Hamas attack, but is recovering in hospital.
The SA Jewish Report said that Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein lauded the courage of the Perez brothers during a gathering at the Yeshiva Mizrachi campus in Johannesburg, where thousands of members of the Jewish community gathered to pray for the safety of Israel and its people, for the return of the Hamas hostages and for peace.
He said Daniel, who had had his Bar Mitzvah in that shul, was stationed at the Nahal Oz base close to the border with Gaza, “which was overrun by terrorists, and he’s missing in action”.
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Reuters reported that Hamas fighters began their attack at dawn on Saturday with a huge barrage of rockets into southern Israel, giving cover to an unprecedented, multi-pronged infiltration of fighters into Israel from Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.
Hamas fighters killed at least 1,300 Israelis in clashes throughout Saturday and into Sunday, and escaped back into Gaza with dozens of hostages. More than 1,400 Gazans were killed when Israel responded with one of its most devastating days of retaliatory strikes.
Hamas said the attack was driven by what it called escalated Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and against Palestinians in Israeli prisons. The conflict between militant groups aligned with Palestinians and the Israeli government has been ongoing for decades, as they battle over territory for their nations.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War in 1967. However, the Palestinians want all three territories for their future state, but there have been no peace talks in over a decade.
AFP has reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to destroy Hamas completely. Israel has massed forces, tanks and other heavy armour around Gaza in its retaliatory operation.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gaza Strip — history of densely populated enclave is critical to understanding current conflict
It has been reported that Israel was caught off guard by this attack, which has been dubbed the worst intelligence failure in the nation’s history, a shock to a country that boasts of its intensive infiltration and monitoring of militants.
Israel launched new airstrikes and said it was preparing for a possible ground invasion on Thursday.
There have been growing concerns about the death toll rising in Gaza, not only because of strikes but the increasing lack of food, water, fuel and electricity as Israel suspends supplies. DM
Additional reporting by Peter Fabricius.