The conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated on October 7, 2023, when Hamas fighters launched an offensive in southern Israel. / Photo: Reuters

South Africa's foreign minister has said that she had a phone call with the Hamas leader to discuss humanitarian aid for Palestinians, but denounced allegations of supporting the group's attack on Israel.

Naledi Pandor said she received a request to call Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to discuss humanitarian support.

"Minister Pandor and the Hamas leader discussed how to get the necessary humanitarian aid to Gaza and other parts of the Palestinian Territories," the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said in a statement on Tuesday.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the group's fighters broke through the heavily fortified Gaza border on October 7, and also took at least 199 people hostage.

'Sadness and regret'

Israel has hit Gaza with airstrikes that have killed more than 2,700 people, imposed a crippling siege on the territory and demanded residents in the north of Gaza move south ahead of a major urban ground assault.

DIRCO said the claims were "untrue" and "meant to impugn the Minister and the Government of South Africa".

"During the call, and in line with the government's position, Minister Pandor reiterated... solidarity and support for the people of Palestine and expressed sadness and regret for the loss of innocent lives both Palestinians and Israelis.

"We do not have a bilateral relationship with Hamas. We have bilateral ties with the Palestinian Authority," presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"Support for the Palestinian struggle against occupation does not equate to support for Hamas" he said.

President's remarks

At the weekend, President Cyril Ramaphosa along with several African National Congress (ANC) officials sporting Palestinian flags and keffiyeh scarves pledged their solidarity with the Palestinians.

"As people and an organisation that has struggled against an oppressive system, of apartheid, we do pledge solidarity with the Palestinians and as the African National Congress we have always pledged our solidarity with them," Ramaphosa said.

Several pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protests have taken place across South Africa.