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Pretoria - Israel had always been expected to fight with its hands behind its back, and despite all efforts to keep away from war, the country was provoked into it by enemy states, Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Dov Segev-Steinberg, said on Tuesday night.
Segev-Steinberg was addressing a meeting of the Pretoria Jewish community, which met on Tuesday night to commit itself to supporting Israel during the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
He said: “War is absolutely the last option for Israel; the last choice taken when all other options to protect the security of the country have failed.”
He and other speakers detailed the attacks on Israel by Hamas, adding that the movement used innocent Palestinians as shields.
“It is a brutal and vicious campaign pursued by Hamas. They have violated humanitarian laws, targeting innocent lives, yet no one condemns them,” the chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Lawrence Nowosenetz, said.
The meeting was told that no country in the world had had to face such war and condemnation. South Africa was named among the countries that showed “no goodwill” towards Israel.
Features like Israel’s continuing to provide Gaza with food, electricity and medication were being ignored, as was the fact that the Israelis conducted themselves with morality in conflict.
That Israel showed patience and respect in the face of provocation was being downplayed.
“We are sadly destined to fight wars. We enter them reluctantly in an effort to protect our security,” said the ambassador, adding that with too few friends there was no truth and logic. Lies were being accepted and perpetuated by governments, the UN and the media.
Meanwhile, the South African government has condemned the lethal force used by Israel in its attacks on Hamas militants in Gaza.
International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said yesterday: “We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children.”
Nkoana-Mashabane said her government was concerned about the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas and called on both sides to halt all cross-border attacks and agree to a ceasefire.
“Israeli air and naval forces must cease their air strikes and shelling into the Gaza enclave. We also call upon Palestinian militants in Gaza to immediately suspend the firing of rockets into Israeli territory,” she said.
Reports on Tuesday said Israel had put plans for a ground attack on Gaza “on hold” to give peace talks, brokered by Egypt, a chance, with tomorrow being the deadline for talks to succeed.
The week-long Israel-Gaza violence follows a November 14 Israeli air strike, which killed the commander of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari, a killing Nkoana-Mashabane said was in violation of international laws.
She said Israel’s decision to call up tens of thousands of military reservists to active service was an “ominous development”, and implied a large-scale ground assault into Gaza was being contemplated seriously. “The government accordingly appeals to the government of Israel to refrain from such a fatal step, which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region.”