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South Africa will arrest citizens fighting for Israel– official

Pretoria’s foreign minister says combatants in the Gaza war have been warned about the consequences of their actions

South Africans fighting alongside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have been killed since October, will be arrested when they return home, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has warned.

She allegedly spoke at a Palestinian support gathering in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, during the weekend. Pandor also mentioned that Israeli soldiers holding dual citizenship would lose their South African nationality as a consequence.

“I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and who are fighting alongside or in the Israel Defense Forces. We are ready. When you come home, we’re going to arrest you,” said the foreign minister, according to the Associated Press.

Pretoria previously warned South Africans against joining the IDF in the Israel-Hamas conflict last December, citing the risk of violating domestic and international law. According to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation, people must obtain government approval before joining Israeli forces, and failure to do so will result in criminal prosecution.

More than 31,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli air and ground attacks in Gaza since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the Palestinian militant group’s cross-border attack on October 7.

Hamas conducted attacks on villages in southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of over 1,100 individuals and the abduction of numerous hostages who were brought to Gaza. The United Nations reports that 570,000 people in the blockaded Palestinian area are experiencing severe hunger, and and as many as 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been forced out of their homes due to Israel’s five-month bombing operation.

The lingering specter of apartheid has prompted South Africa to take legal action against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, highlighting the strained relations between the two countries. South Africa has historically backed the Palestinian quest for self-determination, drawing parallels between their struggle and Pretoria’s own fight against apartheid in the 20th century. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has only served to exacerbate tensions further.

Pretoria has filed a legal action at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for allegedly committing “systematic” war crimes in Gaza. The top UN court has yet to issue a final ruling but it ordered Israel to take steps to prevent genocide and improve humanitarian conditions for Gaza’s population in January.

Last month, the South African government accused Israel of violating the ICJ order. Pandor also claimed that Israeli intelligence had been attempting to intimidate her in response to the genocide investigation.

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