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South African parliament votes in favor of shutting down Israel’s embassy

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a parliamentary session. (File photo)

South African legislators have voted in favor of closing Israel’s embassy in the African country to express their solidarity with Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under brutal Israeli assaults for weeks. 

Lawmakers passed the motion to shut down the occupying regime’s diplomatic mission in Pretoria with 248 votes in favor and 91 votes against on Tuesday, the culmination of weeks of criticism by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration of Israel’s genocidal war against the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

The action, which was brought by the leftwing Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest opposition party and backed by the ruling African National Congress party, is largely symbolic as it will be up to Ramaphosa’s government whether to implement it.

Lawmakers of the centrist, white-majority Democratic Alliance party, which is largely pro-Israel, opposed the motion.

Earlier, Ramaphosa had stressed that his country believed Israel was committing war crimes and genocide in the tightly blockaded enclave, where more than 14,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed since October 7, when Israel unleashed its war machine against Gaza.

Ahead of the parliamentary voting, Israel recalled its ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotserkovsky, “for consultations.”

“Following the latest South African statements, the Ambassador of Israel to Pretoria has been recalled to” back to the occupied territories “for consultations,” said a statement by Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs posted late Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Last week, Pretoria announced that it had referred Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation, with its cabinet calling on the ICC Monday to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Given that much of the global community is witnessing the commission of these crimes in real-time, including statements of genocidal intent by many Israeli leaders, we expect that warrants of arrest for these leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, should be issued shortly,” said South African minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, on Monday.

On November 7, South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor also called for the Hague-based ICC to hold Israel accountable for violations of international criminal law over its crimes in Gaza.

“The murder of children, of women and the aged by Israel is an act that should have resulted in the International Criminal Court issuing an immediate arrest warrant for key decision makers including Mr. Netanyahu, who is responsible for violations of international criminal law,” she said at the time.

Israel like the United States is not a member of the ICC. It refused to cooperate with the court in 2021 over the war crimes investigation into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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