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South Africa recalls Israeli ambassador over flotilla raid

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Unclear how long envoy will be gone
  • South Africa says 'attack' is derailing peace process
  • Israel: 'terror-supporting rioters' should be criticized

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa is recalling its ambassador to Israel because of the deadly Monday raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a South African foreign affairs official said Thursday.

"In view of the recent attack on the flotilla ship carrying relief aid to Gaza, South Africa's Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation in consultation with the presidency has decided to recall its ambassador to Israel, Mr. Ismael Coovadia," said ministry official Malusi Mogale.

"We condemn this attack in the strongest terms. In our view, this derails the peace process in the region and by withdrawing our ambassador we would like to send a strong message of condemnation to the government of Israel," said Mogale, who added that Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, minister of international relations and cooperation, will determine how long the protest will be. Nkoana-Mashabane is currently on an official visit to France, according to the ministry's website.

On Wednesday, the government summoned the Israeli ambassador in South Africa "to demonstrate how serious we view this issue," Mogale said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel regrets the announcement.

"Those who criticize Israel would be better advised to turn their criticism against the terror-supporting rioters from the flotilla, who have nothing to do with humaneness," he said.