South Africa has joined Chad in recalling all of its diplomats from Tel Aviv in response to Israel’s continued air strikes on Gaza.
The bombardment over the weekend was one of Israel’s heaviest since the war began on 7 October.
Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital was caught in the onslaught as about 200 people were killed by the Israeli airstrikes.
While reacting, the South African government, which has long been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, condemned Israel for the collective punishment on innocent civilians.
Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, in a press briefing, explained that South Africa was withdrawing its diplomats, saying: “We are… extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment.
“We felt it important that we do signal the concern of South Africa while continuing to call for a comprehensive cessation [of hostilities].”
She added that the recall of the diplomats was “normal practice”, stressing that the envoys would give a “full briefing” to the government. After this, the government will decide whether it can be of assistance or if a “continued relationship is actually able to be sustained”, Ms Pandor said.
Earlier, South Africa’s cabinet faulted Israeli ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky for making derogatory comments about South Africans, including members of government, who had criticised Israel’s destructive retaliatory offensives.
“The disparaging remarks against those speaking up against the atrocities and the country’s leaders make ambassador Belotsercovsky position more and more untenable,” the cabinet statement said.
South Africa is now the second African country to recall its ambassador after Chad. Outside Africa, Turkey, Chile, Bahrain, Honduras, Colombia, and Jordan have taken a similar step.