The protesters came from different backgrounds and nationalities across South Africa. They carried placards condemning the war between Israel and Hamas.
At their demonstration outside the United States consulate Wednesday afternoon, they condemned the bombing and killing of civilians by both sides. They called on the United States, Israel’s close ally, to urge Israel to withdraw from all Israeli-occupied territories as a condition for a peaceful existence.
Protester Fay Rashid, a South African born Muslim with relatives in Palestine, expressed sadness at the impact of the war on ordinary people.
“It’s total destruction. Our people are dying, " she said, "Little children are being harassed. Little children are being killed. The families are destroyed. We stand with our brothers and sisters so that Palestine can be free.”
Gamiem Boomgaard slammed Israel’s blockade of Gaza imposed after Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack in Israel on Saturday.
“There is no food, water, or drink.," he said. "Nothing is going into the Gaza strip. Stop the killing of innocent people and give Palestinians the land that is theirs. They are killing innocent people. So, they must stop this now.”
Another protester, Mpho Masemola, told VOA that there was only one solution to the conflict.
“We are saying the two-state solution should be implemented so that the Palestinian people should have a sovereign government and legitimate government,” he said.
The two-state solution proposes creating two separate sovereign nations — a state for the Palestinian people alongside the State of Israel. While it has been discussed internationally for 30 years, no progress has been made on implementing it.
One man, who gave his name only as Steve, says Hamas should be blamed for the current destruction, not Israel. He also disagrees that a two-state solution would solve the current conflict.
“The way forward," he said, "is a one-state solution in my opinion. I don’t think there can be a Palestinian state within the bounds of Israel. I support the government that supports the security of Jews in this world. We support Israel.”
Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said there cannot be any justification for the Hamas’s violence in Israel. Hamas fighters killed concertgoers, children and elderly people in their homes, and seized more than 100 hostages when they attacked Israel.
“No! Hamas is not the victim," she said. "They are the aggressor. And when you go and do something as callous and as vicious and as horrific as you did on the weekend, you should be condemned. We should be the ones protesting, not the people who are supporting Hamas.”
The South African government said the war is a result of Israel’s occupation, and officials with the ruling African National Congress have called Israeli an “apartheid regime.” However, U.S. President Joe Biden described Hamas’s attack as a terrorist assault against Israel.