Johannesburg - The African National Congress on Thursday described the Israeli military's attacks on the Gaza strip as “barbaric”.
“The state of Israel has turned the occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps,” deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said in a statement.
“Of course the killing of any child, irrespective of race, colour or creed, must be condemned and the death of 1/8three 3/8 Israeli young people is surely as senseless as any other death.”
However, the killing needed to stop, she said.
Three Israeli teenagers - Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16 and Eyal Yifrah, 19 - were kidnapped and murdered last month.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) at the time reported that the three disappeared from a popular hitch-hiking spot near the southern West Bank Gush Etzion settlement late on June 12.
The Israeli military found the teenagers' bodies in a field northwest of Hebron on June 30.
On July 2, 16-year-old Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder was burnt to death.
This reportedly triggered days of clashes in annexed east Jerusalem and Arab Israeli towns.
Scores of people have died during three days of Gaza raids.
According to AFP, 73 Gazans have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge early on Tuesday to halt cross-border rocket fire.
Duarte called for the attacks, and what she called the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation and punishment of Palestinians, to stop.
“Gaza is the world's largest open air prison with over 1.5 million Palestinians caged in and cut off from the rest of the world,” she said.
“The Gaza strip is the world's most densely populated piece of land on this earth, making the Israeli bombing of the Palestinian Gaza strip all the more horrendous.”
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the SA Zionist Federation condemned Duarte's statement.
“Such naked invective is something one expects to find only on the more extreme wing of the anti-Israel lobby; coming from our country's ruling party, it is nothing short of disgraceful,” the SAJBD said in a statement.
It accused the ANC of keeping quiet when three Israeli teenagers - were murdered. The ruling party also did not condemn the bombardment by Hamas of Israeli population centres.
“Hundreds of deadly missiles have been and continue to be fired at Israel's cities and towns.
“Not once in the statement issued in her name was Ms Duarte able to even acknowledge this fact, let alone denounce it,” the group said.
In 2012, the ANC resolved to call on “all South Africans to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seek to put pressure on Israel”.