|South Africa condemns escalation of violence in Gaza by Israel|
|Africans in Government|
|Monday, 05 January 2009 21:34|
"The South African Government unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemns the escalation of violence on the part of Israel brought about by the launching last night [Saturday] of a ground invasion into Gaza," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday. "The resultant loss of life and continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is unacceptable."
The South African Government has also called on the Israeli Government to stop the military onslaught in Gaza and immediately and unconditionally withdraw troops from the area.
The Israeli army forces have killed about 70 Palestinians in the Strip on Sunday alone.
The Israeli army's ground incursion took place while Palestinian militants were retaliating by firing rockets at Israeli targets coupled with clashes with Israeli army forces on the ground in Gaza.
Sunday's casualties took place after the Israeli army incursion which began Saturday night. Twenty-one Palestinian children and many women were killed by the Israeli attacks.
Palestinian factions were engaged in clashes with the Israeli infantry killing at least 30 soldiers and injuring others.
Hostilities were taking place while a flurry of diplomacy was underway to seek an end to the Israeli hostilities against Gaza which killed some 500 people and injured over 2 000 others.
A delegation of the European Union (EU) troika held talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit in yet another bid to effect a ceasefire in Gaza.
Israel has said the military operations in Gaza would not be short nor easy and aimed at stopping the rocket attacks from the Strip, a matter that is haunting the Israelis.
The Arab Interim Parliament called, in an urgent meeting in Cairo on Sunday, for an immediate ending of the Israeli attacks and described the Israeli army actions as crimes and violating the 1949 Geneva conventions.
Arab lawyers and non-government organisations (NGOs) called for the prosecution of the Israeli officials responsible for the massacres against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Egypt, for its part, summoned the Israeli ambassador in Cairo to express deep concern over the bloody developments in Gaza.
The Palestinians in Gaza are trapped in the Strip and humanitarian supplies have been dispatched from many Arab countries to help those in need. Arab and Gulf countries sent urgent supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza and the only entrance is the Rafah crossing from the Egyptian side of the border with the Strip.
The Israeli Government has refused to halt attacks and said the target was to terminate terror.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN has an important role to play in halting the violence in Gaza, expressing regret that the Security Council did not reach an agreement on Saturday evening on how to end the conflict.
Despite the 15-member body's lack of concurrence during its emergency session which took place hours after Israel launched the ground offensive into Gaza, Mr Ban - who is scheduled to meet with Arab leaders on Monday at UN Headquarters, said that he is pressing ahead with diplomatic efforts.
"Given the crucial juncture at which we have arrived in the search for a ceasefire, I appeal to all members of the international community to display the unity and commitment required to bring this escalating crisis to an end," he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
The Secretary-General said that he has recalled Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to New York to brief him on the situation on the ground as well as political efforts to bring an end to the clashes.
"Meanwhile I remain extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground.
"We are in close contact with the Israeli authorities to press them to open not only the Kerem Shalom crossing, but also Karni and Nahd Oz, to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies."
Following Saturday's closed Council meeting, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, which holds the Council Presidency this month, said that while there was "no formal agreement" among the 15 members, he witnessed "strong convergences" to express concern over the stepped up violence and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
"There was also strong convergence to express full support to the regional and international diplomatic efforts which are underway to resolve the crisis and to call all parties to resume peace talks," Mr Ban said. - BuaNews-NNN-Xinhua