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Africa

Hamas ends South Africa visit

Israel has been angered by a visit to South Africa by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. It came amid an upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a surprise Middle East mediation bid by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

A Hamas delegation, headed by the group's leader Khaled Mashaal, has met has officials from South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), including President Jacob Zuma.

Hamas and the ANC signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday (21.10.2015) on efforts to bring Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to an end.

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said his party would call for the termination of Israel's occupation of Gaza on every international platform.

Mashaal said he was able to update ANC officials on "the situation in Palestine with escalation of Israel's occupation, killing the children, confiscating land, attacking the holy sites."

Terror organization

Israel has protested to South Africa about the visit by Mashaal.

"We believe this invitation encourages terror by giving some legitimacy to a terror organization, recognized as such by the civilized world," the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

The European Union and the United States have blacklisted Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, as a terror organization.

Südafrika Besuch von Hamas-Chef Khaled Meshaal & Jacob Zuma

Memorandum of understanding: South African President Jacob Zuma (left) with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal

Invited by ANC, not South African government

Mantashe was at pains to stress that Hamas was not a guest of the South African government.

"Hamas has been invited by the African National Congress. There must be no confusion about that. It's a party-to-party relationship," he said.

The ANC is the party in power in South Africa.

Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenke, sought to address criticism that his country was the only one to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off.

Israelis, he said, were "not going into streets around Jerusalem with knives looking to attack people, but, you know, Israel is a democracy."

During their four day visit to South Africa, Hamas also met representatives of faith-based groups and others sympathetic to their cause.

Nelson Mandela, the late South African president and ANC leader, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace.

Mediation bid

The latest upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian violence started at the beginning of October 2015. 47 Palestinians and one Arab Israeli have been killed. Eight Israelis have also died in the attacks.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, following a meeting the previous day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He called on both sides to end a "dangerous escalation." Ban offered no concrete public proposals to end the unrest but spoke of returning to "meaningful negotiations."

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