Govt strongly condemns Israel
Johannesburg - The government was investigating the possibility that there may have been a South African on board the aid ship bound for Gaza that was attacked by Israeli forces on Monday morning.
Calling for the "highest level of international condemnation" following the attack, which reportedly killed more than 10 people, the Department of International Relations said: "South Africa accordingly strongly condemns this action which reportedly took place in international waters, 65km off the coast of Gaza, in the early hours of Monday 31, May 2010."
The department said the convoy, reportedly carrying 10 000 tons of aid, was a peaceful mission and the ships were not armed.
"For Israel to attack these civilian ships in international water is a gross violation of international law and is deserving of the highest level of international condemnation," the statement read.
In contact with SA missions
They were in urgent contact with South African missions in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Ankara, where some of the ships originated, to obtain more information on the attacks.
"The department is also investigating the possibility that there was a South African citizen on board one of the ships.
"South Africa strongly condemns all military aggression by Israel against innocent civilians, including those in the occupied West Bank and Gaza."
The department also "strongly criticised" the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 and has consistently urged the Israeli government to lift its subsequent "siege" of Gaza.
This had caused untold hardships for ordinary people of Gaza and prompted the international community to organise relief efforts to the territory.
Israel 'solely responsible'
"...And therefore Israel stands solely responsible for the loss of life during this action."
Many governments around the world shared South Africa's sentiments and summoned Israeli ambassadors to meetings.
According to Agence France Presse, Mark Regev, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said those on board the ships initiated the violence.
He claimed the policemen had been attacked with deadly force as they got onto the boats.
Israel warned in the lead-up to the flotilla setting sail it would arrest those on board.