Cape Town — South Africa has urged Israel not to invade the Gaza strip, while at the same time calling on Palestinian militants to immediately cease firing rockets into the Jewish state.
South Africa wants peace in the region and has been in constant touch with Middle Eastern leaders, including the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. Government will also be meeting South Africa's Jewish Board of Deputies this week.
Israel and Hamas-linked fighters based in Gaza have been locked in hostilities for the past few days. According to reports at least 108 Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes, while at least three Israelis have died in rocket attacks from Gaza.
At the weekend, Israeli called up at least 75 000 military reservists, with an invasion of Gaza seemingly imminent.
At a media conference on Tuesday, International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mshabane, described the call-ups as ominous.
She spoke out against an invasion of Gaza.
"The South African government accordingly appeals to the Government of Israel to refrain from such a fatal step which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israeli lives - but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile situation," she said.
Referring to the death of Hamas member Ramez Harb, who, in violation of international law, was killed in a targeted Israeli air strike, Nkoana-Mshabane stressed that South Africa wanted to raise its concern about extra-judicial killings.
She also appealed to Hamas to scale down the bombings, which she said wasn't necessarily helpful.
Nkoana-Mshabane said that Israel's continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, especially the continuing blockade of Gaza, was at the heart of the conflict.
"The South African Government therefore urges the Israeli Government to halt these policies as they are an obstacle to negotiations for peace and contrary to international law."
She added that a long-term solution to the problem was to go back to basics. Israel should stop illegal settlements. Palestinians were saying there would be no land to negotiate about if their settlements were not stopped.
With regards to Syria, which has been wracked by an insurrection against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, she said South Africa's position had not changed.
"South Africa does not agree with regime change."
South Africa condemned all forms of violence for political change and believed there was no justification for at least 30 000 people being slaughtered in the Syrian conflict.