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BRICS Nations Express Nuanced Views On Israel’s War On Gaza

At BRICS virtual summit chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa criticised Israel more than China, Brazil, and Russia, while India took a subdued stance.

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BRICS Summit
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In a virtual summit on Tuesday, the BRICS group—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—discussed the ongoing Gaza conflict, expressing varied views. Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and the UAE, invited to join BRICS next year, also participated.

A joint statement released after the summit called for the "release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive" and urged a "humanitarian truce that would lead to a cessation of hostilities." The statement, endorsed by the U.N. secretary-general's office, condemned any "kind of individual or mass forcible transfer and deportation of Palestinians from their own land," labelling it a "war crime."

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However, subtle differences emerged among the BRICS members' positions.

China:

President Xi Jinping of China called for a cease-fire, denouncing Israel's "collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force." He emphasised the international community's role in preventing the conflict's escalation. President Xi, speaking by video, also mentioned China's recent veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution that stated Israel had the right to defend itself.

Russia:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia advocated for a cease-fire and highlighted the potential role of BRICS states, along with countries in the region, in finding a political solution to the conflict.

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South Africa:

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, the summit host, condemned Israel's conduct as a violation of international law, stating, "The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime." He described the "deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food, and water to the residents of Gaza" as "tantamount to genocide." Last week, South Africa also referred Israel to the International Criminal Court.

India:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not address the gathering, leaving his country's position unclear. However, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar reiterated the need for urgent humanitarian aid but did not speak of the actions of the Israeli state. Jaishankar stated, "The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza is causing immense human suffering," emphasising the need for international efforts towards de-escalation.

Brazil:

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called the war a "humanitarian catastrophe" but avoided using the word genocide as he has in the past. He said Hamas’s terrorist attacks, while "barbaric," did not justify the use of "indiscriminate and disproportionate force against civilians." He acknowledged, "The innocent pay the price for the insanity of war, especially women, children, and the elderly."

Among the BRICS members, both old and new, India and Ethiopia were the only two to abstain in the voting for the UN General Assembly Resolution that called for a humanitarian pause to allow for supply of food, fuel and water to the Gaza Strip. All the other members had voted in favour.

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So far, More than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and minors, and more than 2,700 others are missing and believed to be buried under rubble, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry says it has been unable to update its count since Nov. 11 because of the health sector’s collapse. In Israel, the official death toll from Hamas’s attacks stands at about 1,200.

In the latest development, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a Qatar-mediated deal for a four-day truce in Gaza and the release of 50 captives held in the enclave. As part of the agreement, 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails will be freed.

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