MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Cabinet blames Israel for Gaza hospital air strike and calls for ICC action against ‘Palestinian holocaust’
Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni says bombing a hospital is a war crime and should be investigated by the International Criminal Court. The South African government was still ‘consulting’ and ‘engaging’ over its offer to mediate between warring parties in the Middle East conflict.
“Israel’s bombing of the Ahli Arab Baptist hospital… is in fact a war crime as hospitals are considered a safe haven under International Humanitarian Law,” Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said in a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday.
“Cabinet calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate the bombing and the crime of genocide in this conflict and on the international community not to allow the perpetration of another holocaust under its watch. The Jewish holocaust is enough stain in the history of mankind, for the international community to fold its arms while the Israeli government perpetrates a Palestinian holocaust,” she continued.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis News Hub
However, Ntshavheni said the government has not yet approached the ICC directly to investigate.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza on Wednesday, said that at least 471 people had been killed and 314 people injured in the explosion at Ahli Arab Hospital. Rescue operations were ongoing and Ministry officials warned that the death toll could increase.
Reuters reported the death toll from the hospital explosion was the highest of any single incident in Gaza during the current conflict, and sparked protests in the occupied West Bank and the wider region, including in Jordan and Turkey.
Source of strike undetermined
Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast. Israel claimed the blast was caused by a failed rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group, which has denied blame.
Gaza has been hit by a barrage of Israeli air attacks in the days following the Islamist militant group Hamas’ coordinated attack on southern Israel on Saturday, 7 October. It has been widely reported that at least 1,300 Israelis were killed in the attack by Hamas, while others were taken hostage.
In response, Israel announced a “total blockade” of Gaza which included a ban on food and water, and the cutting of electricity. On Wednesday, Israel said it would allow food, water and medicine into southern Gaza from Egypt, as long as it could be sure none would be delivered to Hamas.
According to Al Jazeera on Thursday, 3,478 Palestinians have been killed and 12,065 wounded in the conflict.
Cabinet calls out ICC, UN
“Since last week, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed, and far more injured. Many violations of international law have been committed, by all sides, and Cabinet calls for accountability and justice in response to all those crimes.
“Cabinet condemned the cowardly attack by Hamas that killed and injured innocent people. Similarly, Cabinet condemned the heinous opportunism of the Israeli government to use Hamas’ cowardice to continue its genocide against the people of Palestine,” said Ntshavheni.
She said the “bombing by the Israeli government of the Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza is the most blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law”.
The Cabinet called on the ICC to immediately act against such a breach.
“The failure to act meaningfully by both the ICC and the United Nations will be a demonstration of the total collapse of a rules-based multilateral system,” said Ntshavheni.
She said that Cabinet did not need to wait for a briefing from anybody to believe that Israel was to blame for the bombing of Ahli Arab Baptist hospital, adding that Israel “cannot run away from the responsibility of bombing a site that is protected by International Human Rights laws”.
Additionally, the Cabinet called on the Israeli government to “stop the bombardment of civilian establishments such as hospitals, schools and homes and for the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow the passage of aid including food and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip.”
On Wednesday, the US vetoed a UN resolution that would have called for humanitarian pauses to deliver aid to people in Gaza.
Read more in Daily Maverick: US vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for humanitarian pause in Israel-Hamas warfare
The South African government in an earlier statement condemning the violence between Israel and Hamas and calling for a ceasefire, also offered to mediate in the conflict.
“South Africa stands ready to share its experience in mediation and conflict resolution as it has done on the continent and around the world,” it said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How feasible is South Africa’s offer to mediate in the war between Israel and Hamas?
Ntshavheni said South Africa will engage with the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres and countries in the Middle East, regarding what role it can play in terms of mediation.
“We remain available and ready, and when that decision is taken — because we are consulting; we are engaging — we will inform South Africans of our role, if we are going to play any role,” she said. DM