A delegation of 18 MPs belonging to the alliance partners of African National Congress arrived in Ramallah last week as guests of the Fatah movement. The program was designed at a party-to-party level.
The Israeli authorities were asked to facilitate the delegation's entry into Palestinian territory, and last Thursday the delegation members entered Israel from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge. They returned to Jordan on Tuesday the same way.
Upon returning to their homeland, the lawmakers told local media that they had been "attacked with tear gas and stun grenades and shoved by the Israeli police in Ramallah," likely referring to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
'Earaches and mild injuries'
According to South African reports, the incident took place during an anti-Israel rally at a Palestinian village near Bethlehem, which called on the Jewish state to freeze construction in West Bank settlements.
The parliament members said some 20 troops forcibly pushed them. The delegation leader was quoted as saying that apart from the impact of the tear gas, the lawmakers suffered from "earaches and mild injuries".
Foreign Ministry officials estimated that the delegation members may have distorted what happened during the protest with the aim of sparking a row ahead of an upcoming anti-imperialism international youth festival in South Africa, which is slated to focus on Palestine this year and be a center of anti-Israel activity.
Foreign Ministry: We helped delegation
The Israeli officials added that they were puzzled by the fact that a South African political delegation arrived in Ramallah through the Allenby Bridge but "did not hold any meetings in Israel."
The officials stressed that the delegation was "generously" given all the logistic help needed.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said in response, "At the request of the South African Embassy in Israel, the Foreign Ministry helped the delegation pass quickly and smoothly thorough the Allenby Bridge into Judea and Samaria, for the sake of a respected dialogue between parties and not for the purpose of a conflict and provocation.
"Until the delegation returned to Pretoria we did not receive any complaint on an alleged clash with 'Israeli policemen in Ramallah.'"
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in response that "the discussed incident included a violent disturbance in which some 40 rioters hurled stones at the security forces. The forces responded with the means required to end the violent disturbance."