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South Africa to prosecute citizens who served in the Israeli army

'When you come home, we're going to arrest you', South Africa’s foreign minister tells Israeli soldiers
South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor delivers her closing remarks following a meeting with Denmark's Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (not seen) in Pretoria on 5 March, 2024 (AFP)
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, in Pretoria on 5 March 2024 (AFP)

South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said that nationals who have served in the Israeli army will be prosecuted upon re-entering the country, as Israel continues its devastating war on the Gaza Strip for the sixth month. 

"I've already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and who are fighting alongside or in the Israeli Defense Force. We are ready. When you come home, we're going to arrest you," Pandor said during an African National Congress meeting earlier this week.

In her speech restating her country’s solidarity with Palestine, the South African minister referred to her earlier statements in December, in which she warned South African citizens who serve in the Israeli army could be brought to justice.

According to the Israeli Security Service law, all citizens, including dual nationals, are obliged to enlist in the military even if they permanently reside abroad.

After the war broke out in Gaza on 7 October, the Israeli army called upon reserve soldiers, including those living abroad, to join the fighting. 

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On 18 December, the South African foreign ministry issued a statement requesting all nationals to “avoid joining foreign armed forces which may contribute to the violation of domestic and international law”. Otherwise, they would be “liable for prosecution in South Africa”.

The December statement said South Africa was “gravely concerned by reports that some South African citizens and permanent residents have joined or are considering joining the IDF in the war in Gaza and in the other Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

It added that naturalised citizens of South Africa could be stripped of their citizenship.

'We will not condone genocide'

This warning was not the first of its kind.

In November a South African minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said that her country’s laws do not allow citizens to fight under the flags of other countries.

Her statements came as a response to a parliamentary question about what action South Africa is taking against citizens fighting alongside the Israeli army.

How Israel defied ICJ provisional measures, one month on
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South Africa has been among the staunchest opponents of the Israeli war on Gaza, and has led a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians in the besieged enclave, and requesting provisional measures to end the war.

On 26 January the ICJ issued provisional measures, calling on Israel to refrain from impeding the delivery of aid into Gaza and improve the humanitarian situation. It also ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in the besieged enclave and to punish incitement to genocide.

Israel's ongoing onslaught on the Gaza Strip has killed over 31,000 Palestinians. It was launched in the aftermath of a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October, which killed 1,139 people. 

South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile said on Tuesday that his country has no regrets about filing the case with the ICJ.

“Over 70,000 have been injured, while 10,000 are missing under rubble. This brings the number of civilian casualties to about 110,000, amounting to roughly five percent of Gaza's 2.3 million population. We will not condone genocide,” he told MPs. 

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