South Africa has withdrawn its ambassador to Israel after Israeli forces killed more than 50 Palestinians in the Gaza strip on Monday.
“The South African government condemns in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border,” the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) said in a statement.
“Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice.”
Tensions reached boiling point on Monday as the United States of America opened its Israel embassy in Jerusalem, officially recognising the holy city as Israel’s capital.
Israeli troops fired live ammunition, gunning down dozens of Palestinian protesters.
A Palestinian health ministry official said 58 Palestinians had been killed, including six children under the age of 18, Reuters reported
About 2 400 Palestinians had also been wounded.
It was the bloodiest day since a series of protests by Palestinians demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes began at the end of March.
“As we have stated on previous occasions, South Africa reiterates its view that the Israeli Defence Force must withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories,” Dirco said.
“South Africa maintains further that the violence in the Gaza Strip will stand in the way of rebuilding Palestinian institutions and infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters welcomed the decision to recall the ambassador to Israel “in protest of the racist Israeli aggression on Palestine”.
In a statement on Monday night, the party also called for the expulsion of the Israeli mission “to our country as an example to the whole world that a relationship to Israel is complicity with its racist aggression on Palestinians”.
“The Israeli government has refused the right of Palestinians to self-determination for far too long. It has imposed a military occupation on their land for over half a century. Palestinians live in a permanent racist and military occupation despite many resolutions of the United Nations against Israel’s occupation,” the statement read.
The EFF said the South African government should take the lead in the boycott of Israel.
“The expulsion of the Israeli mission must form part of the first move towards an international isolation of Israel by the whole world.”
Boycotting and isolating Israel was the “most efficient” and “peaceful way of forcing the apartheid Israeli government to respect human rights of Palestinians”, the EFF said.
But the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation were unhappy and said in a statement on Monday that the government’s decision to withdraw the ambassador smacked of gross double-standards against Israel.