CAPE TOWN (JTA) — South Africa has recalled its ambassador to Israel but doesn’t plan to cut diplomatic ties, a government official said.
Thursday’s action follows Israel’s deadly interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla early Monday, in which nine people were killed during a confrontation between Israeli troops boarding the ship and activists.
"The recall of Ambassador Ishmael Coovadia is to show our strongest condemnation of the attack. This recent Israel aggression of attacking the aid flotilla severely impacts on finding a lasting solution to the problems of the region," Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim told journalists in Pretoria on Thursday.
South Africa has no intention of expelling the Israeli ambassador to the country, Ebrahim said.
The South African government already had summoned Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg to a meeting to express its displeasure at the incident.
"The South Africa government also joins the international community in its call for the siege of Gaza to be immediately lifted," said Ebrahim, adding that the siege had brought "untold hardships" to the ordinary people of Gaza.
The South African government issued a demarche, the strongest form of diplomatic protest, against Israel’s action, according to the daily Cape Times.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for a Free Palestine held a 24-hour solidarity vigil at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation in Pretoria "in condemnation of Israeli attacks on aid ships to Gaza" and to lend support to the government’s position to "not leave this latest act of provocation on the part of Israel unresolved."
The CFP on Thursday praised the South African government and called on it to "shut down Mossad and Shin Bet operations and terminate the business dealings of El Al Airlines in South Africa."
Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, told the Mail and Guardian that the incident was "unfortunate and entirely regrettable." He criticized the South African government for acting "in a biased manner" in condemning the attack.
About 50 demonstrators participated in a candlelight vigil outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Wednesday night to protest against the attack, according to the Cape Argus. The Palestine Solidarity Group called on the government to "cut all ties with Israel."
"We need to boycott products from Israel and companies who support them," said PSG member Zubair Sayed.