South African Leader Accuses Israel of War Crimes as He Heads BRICS Summit on Gaza

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP)
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South African Leader Accuses Israel of War Crimes as He Heads BRICS Summit on Gaza

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accused Israel of war crimes and acts "tantamount to genocide" in Gaza during a virtual meeting of leaders of developing countries including Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping on Tuesday. Ramaphosa also condemned Hamas for its attack on Israeli civilians that sparked the conflict and said both sides were guilty of violating international law.

"The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime," Ramaphosa said at the start of the meeting of leaders and top diplomats from the BRICS bloc of countries. "The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide."

"In its attacks on civilians and by taking hostages, Hamas has also violated international law and must be held accountable for these actions," Ramaphosa said.

Putin and Xi struck more cautious notes, calling for a ceasefire and the release of civilian hostages but not launching the same level of criticism of either side as Ramaphosa.

Also joining the meeting were leaders and officials from fellow BRICS members Brazil and India, and from Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which are set to join the bloc in January.

Ramaphosa chaired the "extraordinary meeting" and made the opening remarks because of South Africa's position as current chair of BRICS.

Putin said there was a "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in Gaza and it was "shocking to watch how surgeries are performed on children without anesthesia." He again blamed the crisis on what he called failed diplomacy by the United States.

"All these events, in fact, are a direct consequence of the US desire to monopolize mediation functions in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement," Putin said while appearing on teleconference from the Kremlin. He called for a ceasefire in Gaza, the freeing of hostages and the evacuation of civilians from the Gaza Strip.

Putin's comments were in line with Russia's careful approach to the Israel-Hamas war, which may present an opportunity for it to advance its role as a global power broker. Putin proposed last month that Moscow could mediate in the conflict due to its relationships with both Israel and the Palestinians. He said Tuesday that the BRICS bloc could play "a key role" in finding a political settlement.

Putin has condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on towns in southern Israel that led to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, now in its seventh week, while warning Israel over its response and against blockading the Gaza Strip.

More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank. Officials there say another 4,000 are missing. Around 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians during the Hamas attack.

The meeting came a day after China’s top diplomat hosted the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia in Beijing, their first stop on a tour of UN Security Council permanent members. That underlined China’s longstanding support for the Palestinians and its growing geopolitical influence.

India, which also wants to be seen as a leader of the developing world, has long walked a tightrope between Israel and the Palestinians and historically has close ties to both.

South Africa has been fiercely critical of Israel over the war in Gaza and had already filed a request with the International Criminal Court to investigate it over alleged war crimes. South Africa has for years compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the West Bank with its own past apartheid regime of racial segregation.

South Africa's Parliament was to vote on a motion on Tuesday to shut down the Israeli Embassy and sever diplomatic ties over the war, leading Israel to recall its ambassador to South Africa for discussions.

Ramaphosa called for the International Criminal Court to "urgently" initiate prosecutions against those responsible for what he termed war crimes on both sides. He said South Africa also wants to see a ceasefire and the deployment of a UN force to monitor the ceasefire.



40 Dead in Heavy Rains in Afghanistan, 17 killed in Bus Accident

Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
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40 Dead in Heavy Rains in Afghanistan, 17 killed in Bus Accident

Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR

Heavy rains in eastern Afghanistan have killed at least 40 people and injured nearly 350 others, Taliban officials said Tuesday. Separately, at least 17 died when a bus overturned on a main highway, official media said.
Sharafat Zaman Amar, a spokesperson for the Public Health Ministry, confirmed that 40 people had died in Monday's storm and that 347 injured people had been brought for treatment to the regional hospital in Nangarhar from Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, and nearby districts.
Among the dead were five members of the same family who were killed when the roof of their house collapsed in Surkh Rod district, according to provincial spokesperson Sediqullah Quraishi. Four other family members were injured, The Associated Press reported.
About 400 houses and 60 electricity poles were destroyed across Nangarhar province, Quraishi said. Power was cut in many areas and there were limited communications in Jalalabad city, he said. The damage was still being assessed, Quraishi said.
Abdul Wali, 43, said much of the damage occurred within an hour. “The winds were so strong that they blew everything into the air. That was followed by heavy rain,” he said. His 4-year-old daughter received minor injuries, he said.
In May, exceptionally heavy rains killed more than 300 people and destroyed thousands of houses, mostly in the northern province of Baghlan, according to the World Food Program.
Separately, the official Taliban news agency Bakhtar reported that at least 17 people were killed and 34 others injured when a bus overturned Tuesday morning on the main highway linking Kabul and Balkh in northern Baghlan province.
The cause of the accident wasn't immediately clear, but poor road conditions and careless driving are often blamed for such incidents in the country.