African country’s citizens fighting for Israel in Gaza will be arrested upon return, foreign minister says

South Africa’s foreign minister said any of her country’s citizens who travel to fight in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the Gaza Strip will face arrest when they return home, a move that is sure to further the deteriorating relations between both nations. 

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor made the comment earlier this week at a Palestinian solidarity event attended by officials from South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party.

‘I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and are fighting alongside or in the Israeli Defense Forces: We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you,’ Pandor said, to rapturous applause from the audience.

In December, the foreign ministry said that the government was concerned that some of its citizens or permanent residents had joined the IDF to fight in Gaza. They could face prosecution if they hadn’t been granted permission to do so under South Africa’s arms control laws, the ministry warned. 

Those with dual South African-Israeli citizenship could be stripped of their South African citizenship, the foreign ministry said.

South Africa has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and has accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip as Israeli soldiers continue to battle Hamas following the terror group’s Oct. 7 attacks on the Jewish state. 

South Africa has charged in the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide. 

In January, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., criticized South Africa for bringing a genocide case against Israel, saying the African nation should focus on quelling unrest on its own continent.

‘And now South Africa… bringing that kind of trial. Maybe South Africa ought to sit this one out when they’re talking about criticizing the behavior of another nation. Sit out!,’ Fetterman said while speaking at the Orthodox Union luncheon in Washington, D.C.

Israel has denied any claims that it has enforced an apartheid state on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

It was not clear how many South Africans have fought for Israel during the current conflict. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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