Did the African Union ban Israeli delegation from entering its headquarters?

Did the African Union ban Israeli delegation from entering its headquarters?
The 55-member state bloc reportedly banned the entry of an Israeli delegation the pan-African summit on Wednesday
3 min read
15 February, 2024
The African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa on February 15 for the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU [Getty]

The African Union (AU) has reportedly banned an Israeli delegation from joining meetings in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Wednesday.  

The Israeli delegation was said to have arrived in Addis Ababa two days earlier where they were expected to participate in the upcoming summit to discuss the Gaza war,  Al Jazeera reported.

However, the AU allegedly made the decision to prevent the Israeli Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yaakov Blitstein from entering its headquarters. 

As well as Bliststein, the delegation consisted of Amit Bayas, who serves as Israel's Director of the Africa Management Department.

The New Arab approached the AU for comment, but received no response at the time of publication. 

Israel has also yet to issue a response following the Al Jazeera report but if accurate, it would be the second time an Israeli delegation faced expulsion by the AU, following the public dismissal of its envoy at last year’s summit. 

Video footage that circulated across social media in 2023 saw Israel's deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-li, escorted out of the AU assembly. 

Israel accused arch-foe Iran of having orchestrated the move alongside South Africa and Algeria, after Israel was granted observer status at the AU in 2021. 

However, it is not confirmed whether the accreditation will also be subject to withdrawal, following Al Jazeera’s recent claim.  

In December 2023, South Africa filed a case with the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people in its war on Gaza.

Though the ICJ's interim ruling in January found that Israel was plausibly carrying out genocide in the enclave but it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

During this year’s 44th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, the AU’s chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the conflict as a "war of extermination", calling for an independent Palestinian state. 

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"The suffering of the Palestinian people, deprived of their fundamental rights to freedom and to the constitution of a viable and sovereign State, is being compounded before our eyes by a war of extermination," Mahamat said at the opening speech of the summit. 

The chairperson also called for immediate international action, adding: "The use of blind violence is accepted in silence and amnesia by almost all the great powers of the world."

Mahamat called for the "cessation of hostilities, the release of all hostages and prisoners and a resolute commitment to a political solution based on the principle of two States living in peace and respect for international law".

The chairperson of the pan-African bloc also lauded "the firm commitment" of South Africa in taking measures against suspected war crimes in the Gaza Strip

At least 28,663 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel's military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Palestinian territory.