The AU Commission took the "decision unilaterally without" consulting its members, South Africa says.

South African demonstrators hold placards during a protest following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, outside the Israel Trade offices in Sandton, South Africa
South African demonstrators hold placards during a protest following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, outside the Israel Trade offices in Sandton, South Africa (Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters)

South Africa has objected to African Union Commission's decision to grant Israel an official observer status at the continental organisation.

In a statement on Wednesday, the continental powerhouse, which last year held the annually rotating AU presidency, said it "is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union".

The AU handed Israel the observer status on Thursday, a move the two parties expected would enable Israel to further help the AU battle the coronavirus pandemic and terrorism on the continent.

"The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land," South Africa's foreign affairs ministry said, blasting the move as "inexplicable" and "incomprehensible".

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South Africa backs the Palestinian cause with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, and it downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019.

The Palestinian territories already have observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU's annual summits.

The AU Commission took the "decision unilaterally without" consulting its members, according to South Africa.

READ MORE: Israeli troops kill Palestinian man in occupied West Bank

South Africa will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.

"South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status" in the AU, it said.

Continued violence

The Israeli army launch, on daily basis, attacks against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, while the Palestinian Authority keeps demanding the international community to protect the Palestinian people, who languish for decades under occupation. 

A 12-year-old Palestinian child, who was shot and injured by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, succumbed to his wounds, according to local residents and the Palestinian Health Ministry. 

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The child, Mohammed al-Allami, was injured in the chest when Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle at the entrance of the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron (Al-Khalil), said a Palestinian Health Ministry statement. 

On Saturday a 17-year-old Palestinian died from wounds he received the day before. 

Mohammed Munir al-Tamimi, who suffered gunshot wounds, died in hospital, the Palestinian health ministry said, a day after violence in the flashpoint Palestinian village of Beita.

And late Tuesday, a 41-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead near Beita, the Palestinian health ministry said.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.

Source: AFP