Cape Town — The African Union (AU) and African presidents and foreign ministers are calling for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants from Gaza which broke out on Saturday.
AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat released a statement on Sunday urging the warring parties to return to the negotiating table. “The chairperson urgently appeals to both parties to put an end to the military and to return, without preconditions, to the negotiating table to implement the principle of two states living side by side,” he said.
Nigerian foreign minister Yusuf Tuggar called for a ceasefire and a “peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue”, while Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni asked: “Why don’t the two sides implement the two-state solution?”
The AU and Museveni were referring to the proposal, widely supported internationally, that Palestinians be granted statehood in order to live in peace alongside Israel. At present, Israel occupies the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza strip.
President William Ruto of Kenya, usually regarded as sympathetic to Israel, said in a statement that “Kenya strongly maintains that there exists no justification whatsoever for terrorism, which constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security.”
In Nairobi, the Palestinian Embassy blamed Israel for Hamas’s attack on Saturday, accusing it of “undeterred criminal provocations over many months” and deplored “the double standards that have tainted international affairs, especially with regard to the Palestinian cause…”
However, Israeli ambassador to Kenya Michael Lotem condemned the surprise attack, telling Capital Radio that “this is not another localized, contained conflict or issue of skirmishes. It’s a war and we’ll have to deal with it as such. And we’ll have to eliminate those behind this war.”
Egypt, which has often acted as a broker between Israel and the Palestinians, appealed to “both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to exercise the highest degrees of restraint.” Egyptian diplomat Sameh Shoukry was reported as having made a series of calls Saturday in an attempt to rally the international community to intervene quickly.
For its part, South Africa blamed renewed conflict on “the continued illegal occupation of Palestine land, continued settlement expansion, desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christian holy sites, and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.”
In Tunis, students and civil society activists, gathered to protest Israeli military action.