Israel 'regrets' SA ambassador recall

2010-06-03 22:12

Johannesburg - The Israeli government on Thursday said it regretted South Africa's decision to recall its ambassador to that country following the killings of nine activists on a Gaza flotilla.

"We regret this measure," Israel's foreign affairs spokesperson Yigal Palmor told Sapa.

"But (it) is a sovereign decision of the South African government. We respect that. We would not have done the same and we would have understood the South African government if it had been placed in the same situation. We hope to have him back soon," Palmor said.

South Africa's international relations department announced earlier on Thursday that its ambassador would be recalled following the deaths of nine people during Monday's clash, which has drawn global condemnation.

"The recall of Ambassador Ismail 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 Foreign Affairs Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim told journalists in Pretoria.

South African radio journalist Gadija Davids was among the more than 600 people from 42 countries who had tried to break Israel's blockade on Gaza and deliver aid to the area. Davids was expected to arrive back in South Africa from Turkey soon, following her release from detention in Israel.

South Africa condemned the incident and summoned Israel's ambassador to receive a démarche, the government's strongest possible condemnation of the incident.

The flotilla was intercepted in international waters by Israeli soldiers, which some critics called an act of piracy.

However, Israel claimed it acted in self defence, citing footage of soldiers being hit with poles and one being thrown overboard.

The United Nations has passed a resolution that an independent investigation take place.