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South Africa recalls diplomats in Israel, cites 'genocide' in Gaza

The South African government on Monday recalled its diplomats from Israel and took aim at Israel's ambassador in Pretoria, calling his position in the country "untenable."
Pro-Palestinian supporters pray while gathering during an anti US and anti Israel demonstration in front of the US Consulate in Johannesburg, on November 04, 2023.

South Africa announced on Monday that it was recalling its diplomats from Tel Aviv for consultations amid Israel's ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni accused Israel of committing "genocide" in the enclave in a statement released Monday. 

Amid a deepening diplomatic rift between the two states, the minister then slammed Israel’s ambassador to South Africa Eli Belotserkovsky, calling his position in the country "untenable" and adding, "Cabinet has decided to instruct [South Africa’s Foreign Ministry] to take necessary measures within the diplomatic channels and protocols to deal with the conduct of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa." Belotserkovsky, who has given several media interviews in recent weeks on Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel and Israel's subsequent war in Gaza, remains in Pretoria. 

Addressing the press while hosting her Ukrainian counterpart on Monday, South Africa's International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said, “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.” 

Pro-Palestinian protests have been held in recent days outside the US consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town and the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria. Relations between the two countries have been tense for several years, with South Africa's ruling African National Congress Party a strong proponent of the Palestinian cause and frequent critic of Israel. 

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