/ 21 October 2023

Cyril Ramaphosa calls for ‘restraint’ in Israel-Palestine conflict

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An Israeli soldier inspects a destroyed building in an area in Kissufim, Israel, on Saturday, 21 October. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the only way to bring about peace in the conflict between Israel and Palestine is in the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for human rights, dignity, and statehood.

Ramaphosa was speaking at the Cairo Peace Summit taking place in Egypt on Saturday, where world leaders gathered to discuss the conflict.

The summit comes two weeks after the militant Palestinian movement Hamas’ surprise attack in the south of Israel, which left at least 1300 people dead. Israel’s subsequent retaliatory bombing of Gaza has claimed 3,785 lives, according to health officials in Gaza. 

Ramaphosa expressed concern that the response of the Israeli government to the attack on its citizens would further deepen a conflict that has engulfed the region for decades and will make the attainment of “a just and lasting peace” even more difficult. 

“We are also concerned that this conflict can spread to include other countries in the region. This must be avoided at all costs,” he said.

He called on world leaders to exercise restraint and on all state actors to desist from providing weapons to either side in the conflict.

“We believe that peace is the only option to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine. To achieve this, steps must be taken now. We therefore call on all parties to exercise restraint and on all state actors to desist from providing weapons to either of the sides to the conflict.

“We gather here united by our deep concern at the unprecedented conflict that has engulfed Gaza and Israel and our distress at the depth and extent of human suffering,” said Ramaphosa.

“As South Africa, we hold the firm view that the attack on civilians in Israel, the ongoing siege of Gaza, and the decision to forcibly move the people of Gaza, together with the indiscriminate use of force through bombing, are violations of international law. More than that, these acts are an affront to our common humanity.”

He added that South Africans could relate to what was happening to Palestinians.

“Our people waged a brave and courageous struggle to achieve their freedom and were subjected to untold suffering, just like the Palestinians are going through.

“The nightmare of apartheid was only brought to an end by the relentless struggle of our people, and the courage and foresight of leaders who put aside their differences and sought peace rather than revenge.”