Israel has recalled its ambassador to South Africa, Eli Belotserkovsky, for consultations amid a diplomatic rift between the two countries over the conflict in Gaza. Last week, South Africa’s ruling party said it would back a motion to sever diplomatic ties with Israel and shut down its embassy in Pretoria.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Monday, citing “recent comments from South Africa” as the reason for Ambassador Belotserkovsky’s departure from Pretoria.
The move came just hours after South African Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters that Pretoria had called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December.
South Africa, a long-time supporter of Palestinian sovereignty, has been outspoken in its opposition to Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, which local officials say has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians. Israel declared war on Hamas earlier in October, following an attack by the Palestinian militant group on the Jewish state that killed an estimated 1,200 people.
Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated that Israel’s assault on Gaza amounts to genocide and warrants a war crimes investigation. He announced that Pretoria, along with several other unspecified countries, had referred the Israeli government to the ICC for a formal probe.
The African nation has already recalled its ambassador and diplomatic staff from Tel Aviv, as have Bolivia, Belize, Bahrain, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, and Türkiye.
Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa will convene an extraordinary emergency video conference with other BRICS leaders on Tuesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Gaza.
The joint meeting of the group – originally made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – is scheduled for midday GMT. It will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin announced on Monday.
The leaders of the countries invited to join the bloc in January – Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – are also expected to attend.