By Nellie Peyton
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa on Monday called for the United Nations to deploy a rapid protection force to protect civilians in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza from further bombardment as Israel steps up its retaliation for a deadly attack by militant group Hamas.
South Africa has long been an advocate for peace in the region, likening the plight of Palestinians to its own under the apartheid regime that ended in 1994.
In calling for a protection force, South Africa has gone further in its support for the Palestinians than most nations, some of which have called for a ceasefire or the opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow aid into Gaza.
Israel has tightened its blockade and bombardment of Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel on Oct. 7 and killed some 1,400 people. Palestinians in Gaza reported fierce air and artillery strikes early on Monday.
“Entire generations of families have been wiped out in Gaza over the last three weeks,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
A member of the Palestinian community in Johannesburg had 25 family members killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday morning, the statement said, while family members of a senior Palestinian diplomat in South Africa were killed in their apartment building the day before.
“The numbers of non-combatants killed, especially the numbers of children killed, requires that the world to show that it is serious about global accountability,” the statement said.
Medical authorities in Gaza said on Sunday 8,005 people had been killed in the three-week war. Reuters was not able to independently confirm the figures.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously offered to help mediate in the conflict. South Africa also said earlier this month that its foreign minister held a call with the leader of Hamas about getting aid into Gaza, while underlining that it did not support the group.
(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Angus MacSwan)