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South Africa parliament votes for downgrading of ties with Israel

Draft resolution says the country's embassy would be downgraded in solidarity with the Palestinians
Members of unions, civil associations, and political parties during a pro-Palestine demonstration in front of the Israeli Trade and Economic Office in Sandton, Johannesburg, on 27 January 2022 (AFP)

South Africa's parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of downgrading the country's embassy in Israel in light of continuing abuses against Palestinians.

A statement released by the National Freedom Party (NFP), which introduced the draft resolution, said it was a move that would have been supported by anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

“This is a moment [Mandela] would be proud of. He always said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians," read the statement.

South Africa's relations with Israel have been tense in recent years, not least as numerous human rights groups - chiming with comments made by Palestinian and South African campaigners for years - declared that Israel was guilty of apartheid.

In the statement, the NFP - a centre-left party with only two seats in the parliament - thanks other parties, including the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for their support.

"The state of Israel was built through the displacement, murder, and maiming of Palestinians. And to maintain their grip on power, they have instituted apartheid to control and manage Palestinians," read the statement.

"As South Africans, we refuse to stand by while apartheid is being
perpetrated again."

Unprecedented violence

Israeli forces have killed at least 69 Palestinians since this year - which corresponds to a rate of nearly one killing every day. 

It's the bloodiest start of a year since 2000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

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At least 13 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in the same period. 

Nablus and Jenin have witnessed an uptick in armed resistance acts against Israeli targets in recent months.

With Muslim, Christian, and Jewish holidays overlapping next month, many fear more deadly escalations could follow. 

CIA Director William Burns recently said current tensions in the West Bank bear an "unhappy resemblance" to the Second Intifada.

The threat of an uncontrollable outbreak of violence has prompted JordanEgypt, and the US to initiate de-escalation efforts in recent months.

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