Senior Hamas officials on Tuesday joined the family of Nelson Mandela to mark the 10th anniversary of his death and cast the spotlight on the Israel-Hamas war.
South Africa has strongly condemned Israel’s response to the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attacks that unleashed a war in which thousands have died.
Mandela, who died aged 95 in 2013, made a Palestinian state one of his main international causes when he became South Africa’s first black president, although he also expressed his support for the existence of the State of Israel and had ties to many Israeli leaders.
On Tuesday, Hamas representatives were among Palestinians who laid a wreath when the Mandela family paid tribute at a giant statue of the anti-apartheid icon.
National assembly member Mandla Mandela, Mandela’s grandson, helped organize a two-day conference on the Palestinian-Israel conflict before the wreath-laying at the Union Buildings.
Basem Naim, a former Hamas health minister in Gaza, and Khaled Qaddoumi, the terror group’s representative in Iran, were among Palestinians to visit for the conference and anniversary.
“We were waiting to gain first-hand experience of the daily atrocities that are being carried out in Gaza,” Mandla Mandela told national broadcaster SABC. “It was a real experience for them to be in South Africa and learn from our experience as we had to face one of the most brutal apartheid regimes on the continent and we were able to defeat it.”
He said his grandfather considered a Palestinian state “the great moral issue of our time” and added: “We are carrying on where he left off.”
Mandla Mandela is part of the ruling African National Congress, which last month backed a national assembly motion calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy and for a suspension of diplomatic ties in protest at the war.
South Africa has also officially called on the International Criminal Court to investigate what President Cyril Ramaphosa has called Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza.
The war was sparked on October 7 when Hamas terrorists staged a shock incursion into southern Israel, blasting through the border fence under cover of thousands of missiles fired at Israeli population centers. The approximately 3,000 gunmen killed over 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and abducted some 240, including babies and octogenarians. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 360 people were slaughtered at the Supernova festival at Kibbutz Re’im, many amid horrific acts of brutality.
Israel declared war in response, vowing to topple the Hamas regime and eliminate the threat from Gaza, and secure the release of the hostages. Amid the Israeli military’s aerial and ground campaigns, the Hamas health ministry has reported over 15,000 fatalities — a number that cannot be verified and that includes combatants alongside noncombatants. Israel says it’s doing its best to avoid civilian casualties, but accuses Hamas of embedding its terror infrastructure — weapons depots, command centers, missile launchers — in residential buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques.