South Africa says its citizens serving in IDF could face prosecution back home

Pretoria says it’s ‘gravely concerned’ about citizens joining war, suggests they are committing ‘international crimes,’ says naturalized citizens could be stripped of nationality

Four IDF soldiers look out a window at a partially demolished neighborhood in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo released December 18, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Four IDF soldiers look out a window at a partially demolished neighborhood in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo released December 18, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South Africans fighting for Israel in Gaza could face prosecution at home, the government warned on Monday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa once again denounced the conflict in the Palestinian territory as a “genocide.”

The foreign ministry said it was “gravely concerned” by reports that some Israeli soldiers who are also South African nationals have joined the IDF to fight in Gaza, or are considering doing so.

“Such action can potentially contribute to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, thus making them liable for prosecution in South Africa,” the ministry said.

It did not specify how many South Africans are thought to have enlisted. The government has previously said the State Security Agency (SSA) was tracking them down.

South Africans need prior government approval to fight legally in Israel, the ministry said. Naturalized citizens are at further risk of being stripped of their South African nationality for engaging in a war that the country “does not support or agree with,” the foreign ministry added.

Israel launched a war on Hamas after the terror group’s murderous onslaught against southern Israel on October 7, in which it slaughtered around 1,200 people, mostly civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities, and took around another 240 hostage. In the ensuing war, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 19,400 people have been killed, of whom Israel says more than one-third are Hamas operatives. The Hamas figures cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between those killed by Israel and those by failed Palestinian rocket launches. Israel says it has killed over 7,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Israel says it is making efforts to avoid harm to civilians while fighting Hamas in difficult conditions — since the terror group is waging war from within the civilian population, often using it as cover.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses BRICS leaders for a virtual meeting of leaders of developing countries, November 21, 2023. (South Africa Presidency via AP)

South Africa has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party often linking it to its own struggle against apartheid.

It has strongly condemned Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks and has recalled all its diplomats from the country.

On Monday, Ramaphosa denounced the “genocidal onslaught and slaughter of the people of Palestine” at a press conference with representatives of pro-Palestinian groups in Johannesburg.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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