South Africa’s Parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of a motion calling for the closure of Israel’s embassy in Pretoria and the suspension of diplomatic ties as tensions soar between the two countries over the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The motion calling for the closure of the embassy and suspension of all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire is reached passed with 248 votes in favor and 91 votes against.
The action was introduced by the left-wing opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, backed by the ruling African National Congress and opposed by members of the centrist, white-majority, largely pro-Israel Democratic Alliance.
Ramaphosa has said his country believes Israel is committing war crimes and genocide in the besieged Gaza Strip, where Palestinian authorities have said more than 14,100 people have been killed in Israel’s air and ground assaults since October 7. In recent years, a growing number of international rights groups have said Israeli policies towards the Palestinians constitute the crime of apartheid, something that Israel firmly denies.
South Africa also hosted a virtual summit of BRICS nations on Tuesday, with the group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa calling for an “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce in Gaza.
The South African government earlier on Monday called on the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December.
Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said it would signal a “total failure” of global governance if the ICC did not do so.
Israel says it is defending itself following the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed 1,200 people but the South African government has repeatedly described the Israeli campaign in Gaza as “genocide”.
Gaza’s Hamas-run government says at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments, including at least 5,500 children.
Alongside four other countries, South Africa last week submitted a referral to the ICC to investigate whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Gaza.
A longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, South Africa recalled its ambassador and diplomatic staff from Israel on November 6.
Following South Africa’s move on Monday, Israel recalled its envoy in Pretoria.