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SA citizens in conflict zones can be prosecuted

Citizens who in a place which SA declares as a conflict zone, could find themselves breaking the law.

Gaza is regarded by South Africa as a conflict zone. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/GAZA - It's now emerged that any South Africans trying to give humanitarian aid to people in the Gaza-Israeli conflict could find themselves breaking South African law.

That's because certain regulations have not been published under the Foreign Military Assistance Act.

Charges have already been laid against two South Africans who are in the Israeli Defence Force, but it now appears that even people trying to help those hurt in the conflict could be prosecuted.

South African NGO Gift of the Givers is currently planning to take humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The South African National Defence Union (Sandu)'s advocate Pikkie Greeff says regulations supposed were be published that would have clarified what is illegal under this act.

"Those regulations for reasons known to the parliamentarians have not been published and that's the reason we sit with this overreaching act."

At the same time, defence analyst Helmut Heitman says the act's wording means you can almost be prosecuted just for being in a conflict zone.

"So really the bottom line is anything other than taking photos or eating breakfast in what the SA government regards as a conflict zone, could make you liable for prosecution."

The National Conventional Arms Control Committee administers this act but it hasn't responded to requests for comments.

TRUCE OFF TO SHAKY START

Israel and the Palestinians renewed a truce that had largely tempered a five-week-old war, but the deal got off to a shaky start on Thursday with rockets from Gaza flying across the border and Israel retaliating with air strikes.

The Israeli military said Palestinians breached the truce and fired eight rockets at Israel and that in response, its army forces targeted "terror sites" across the enclave.

There were no casualties reported in any of the incidents.

Hamas denied involvement in firing the rockets and accused Israel of violating the truce, extended at the last minute by another five days for the sides to work out a long term ceasefire, mediated by Egypt.

Israel had no comment on the new truce deal announced in Cairo by the Palestinians.

Hamas official Izzat Reshiq denied the Palestinians had breached the truce, and denounced Israel's air strikes as "a violation of the calm".

The halt in fighting which has killed more than 2,000 people had been set to expire at midnight on Wednesday.

Bridging the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians in order to secure a permanent ceasefire have proven difficult.

Hamas and its allies want an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza.

Israel and Egypt harbour deep security concerns about Hamas, the dominant group in the small, Mediterranean coastal enclave, complicating any deal on easing border restrictions.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Aqsa Hamas television on Wednesday that the group would insist on "lifting the Gaza blockade" and r educing movement restrictions on the territory's 1.8 million residents, as a prerequisite to a "permanent calm".

Members of the Palestinian delegation said they would return to Cairo on Saturday night to begin more talks on Sunday.

CEASEFIRE PROPOSALS

A Palestinian official with knowledge of negotiations in Cairo said Egypt had presented a new proposal for a permanent truce.

Egyptian and Palestinian sources said Israel had tentatively agreed to allow some supplies into Gaza and relax curbs on the cross-border movement of people and goods, subject to certain conditions.

A Palestinian demand for a Gaza seaport and reconstruction of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts with Israel has also been a stumbling block, with Israel citing security reasons for opposing their operation.

The sides have agreed to delay discussion of any agreement on the ports for a month, a Palestinian official said.

As part of the Egyptian blueprint, Israel was expected to expand fishing limits it imposes on Gaza fishermen to 10 km from the usual 1.5 km offshore zone.

Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border ambushes. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild the tunnels.

Additional information from Reuters

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