South Africa calls on UN to deploy rapid protection force to protect civilians in Gaza
Johannesburg: South Africa has called on the United Nations to deploy a rapid protection force to protect the civilian population of Gaza amid reports about a large number of children being killed there as the Israeli forces heightens attacks on the Hamas-ruled enclave.
“South Africa echoes the UN General Assembly’s resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire and the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor to provide food, medical supplies and fuel,” the country’s Department of International Relations and Cooperations said in a statement on Monday.
It said that South Africa also “calls on the United Nations to deploy a rapid protection force to protect the civilian population from further bombardment.”
“All countries genuinely committed to a rules-based system underpinned by international law must act immediately. South Africa calls for the International community to hold Israel accountable for breaches of International Law,” it added.
‘Save the Children’, a humanitarian organisation for children, has reported that the number of children killed in Gaza over the last three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across all the world’s conflict zones since 2019.
Since October 7, when Israel commenced retaliatory attacks after Hamas attacked and abducted some Israeli civilians, more than 3,500 Palestinian children are reported to have been killed.
According to the NGO, there may be more than 1,000 more children who have been reported missing still lying in the rubble of demolished buildings.
“All of these children killed since 7 October are non-combatants and those responsible for their deaths must be held accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and in the case of the scale of deaths in Gaza and increasingly in the West Bank, the crime of genocide must also be investigated,” the South African Ministry said.
Calling the deaths a direct result of “the unlawful actions by Israel on the peoples of Gaza”, South Africa said Israel does not have the “right to defend itself” using military means as Israel is an occupying power.
It said this has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice.
“As the occupying power, Israel can use tools applicable to the rule of law, including policing powers to deal with criminal actions,” it said.
“Those that have encouraged and materially supported the unlawful use of force by Israel in the current situation should therefore be investigated for aiding and abetting the breaches of international law,” the statement said, adding that the ICC should use its independent powers to initiate prosecutions urgently, as it did with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine war.
The statement recalled how Minister Naledi Pandor, speaking at the UN Security Council last week, reminded the world of the genocide in 1994 in Rwanda, when over half a million members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa, were killed by armed Hutu militias.
“We all recall that in 1994 a genocide occurred on the African continent with much of the whole world watching as innocent people were massacred. History cannot keep repeating such cruelty, we should establish a system of global governance that is fair, equitable, and has the capacity to respond to the needs of all persons in situations of threat and harm – a system that is not just a tool for the most powerful countries of the world but that provides protection for the most vulnerable,” Pandor said.