Johannesburg - A lasting solution to the Middle East unrest can only be found through serious and genuine negotiations between the parties involved, the international relations department (Dirco) said on Friday.
“We strongly urge all sides to refrain from responding to violence with violence and to exercise restraint, including a halt to the arbitrary arrest of Palestinian civilians and the use of collective punishment on Palestinians,” Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.
The South African government did not agree that the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys, and the subsequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem, could be used as grounds to escalate the violence, Monyela said.
“Furthermore, these unfortunate incidents should not be used, from whatever quarter, to cast aspersions on the legitimate existence of the Unity Government in Palestine, whose advent was welcomed by the whole of peace-loving mankind,” he said.
Dirco was concerned that innocent people, particularly children and the elderly, had become victims of the unrest.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that around 100 Palestinians had been killed in four days of Israeli air bombardments.
No fatalities had been reported in Israel but a man in his 50s was injured after a Gaza rocket struck a petrol station in the southern port city of Ashdod on Friday, causing a huge explosion and fire.
“The threatened ground invasion of the Gaza strip will certainly throw the situation completely out of control,” said Monyela.
The Democratic Alliance called on the United Nations to bring about an immediate ceasefire and assist in bringing about peaceful negotiations.
“Violence cannot be stopped with more violence. Only sensible discussion and transcendent leadership can bring peace,” DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa said in a statement.