President Jacob Zuma repeated his call on Wednesday for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“South Africa joins the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon in calling for an immediate ceasefire by all sides, and a resumption of the flow of humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza,” he told MPs on Wednesday.
Opening debate on the presidency’s R1.2 billion budget, he said South Africa, like all peace-loving nations, was shocked and dismayed by the violence and loss of life in Gaza.
“We call on the Israeli government to stop its air and ground offensive, which continues to cause loss of life and a devastating humanitarian crisis.
“We also call for an end to the firing of rockets on Israel’s citizens by Hamas.”
According to reports on Wednesday, at least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting.
The UN says 74 percent of those killed in Gaza are civilians. Ban Ki-moon is in the region trying to bring an end to the fighting.
Zuma said South Africa was opposed “to the veiled attempts by the Israeli government to use its onslaught on Gaza to undermine the unity government in Palestine”.
A military solution to the conflict was impossible, he said.
“There will never be a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only solution lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties.”
Zuma called on Egypt to help Palestine.
“We appeal to the Egyptian authorities to open their door to the injured and affected people of Gaza.”
With supplies running out in Gaza, their only lifeline was Egypt.
Zuma said the focus should be on the humanitarian crisis.
“This is not the time to apportion blame, but to focus on the needy and dying, especially defenceless women and children.”
He said South Africa would work with its Brics partners to develop a common position on the crisis.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Zuma was to dispatch former deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad to Israel and Palestine to convey South Africa’s growing concern over the conflict and levels of violence.
It was announced that South Africa would provide US1 million of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Sapa