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South Africa’s ANC backs motion to close Israeli embassy

South Africa’s ANC backs motion to close Israeli embassy
A protester waves a Palestinian flag as they stand in front of South Africa Police Forces (SAPS) during an ANC (African National Congress) led march to the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, 20 October 2023. The march was in solidarity with the Palestinian people and calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have died since the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October 2023, leading to Israeli retalitory strikes on the Palestinian enclave. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 16 (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said on Thursday that it would support a parliamentary motion calling for the Israeli embassy in South Africa to be closed.

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will propose the motion later on Thursday, also calling for the suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

South Africa’s strong support for Palestinians dates back to former President Nelson Mandela’s days, with the country likening their plight to its own before the end of apartheid in 1994. Israel rejects the comparison.

“The African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israel Embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until Israel agrees to a ceasefire,” the ANC said in a statement.

The Israeli embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ANC’s remarks and the parliamentary debate.

Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that rules Gaza have been at war for more than a month after militants rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7. In retaliation, Israel has enforced a strict blockade of Gaza and conducted an aerial bombardment and armoured ground offensive.

The EFF’s motion is largely symbolic as it will be up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government whether to implement it.

But ANC leader Ramaphosa and senior foreign ministry officials have been vocal in their criticism of Israel’s leadership during its military campaign against Hamas, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate them for potential war crimes.

Ramaphosa reiterated on Wednesday during a state visit to Qatar that South Africa was opposed to Israel’s operation in Gaza, “particularly as it is now targeting hospitals”.

South Africa earlier this month recalled its diplomats from Israel.

(Reporting by Anait Miridzhanian, Carien du Plessis and Bhargav AcharyaEditing by Alexander Winning and Angus MacSwan)

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