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Tuesday 20th March 2018

South Africa, Turkey, Withdraw Ambassadors to Israel


7Dnews London - AP

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:44 GMT

South Africa and Turkey have formally withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel, citing the latest Gaza Strip violence in which 58 Palestinians have been confirmed killed.

More than 1,000 people have been reported injured in the latest clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. There are also claims that six children are among the dead. In addition to withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, Turkey has also withdrawn its ambassador to the United States. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said both ambassadors would return for “consultations”.

In a statement released by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on 14 May, the South African government recalled Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice. “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, which has led to the deaths of over 40 civilians. The victims were taking part in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem,” read a statement from DIRCO.

The department added that it believes the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) should withdraw from their positions along the Gaza border. DIRCO’s statement continued: “South Africa maintains further that the violence in the Gaza Strip will stand in the way of rebuilding Palestinian institutions and infrastructure.”

In addition to the statement from DIRCO, the South African political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also called on the South African government to expel the Israeli ambassador as a consequence of the latest Gaza violence.

“We call on South Africa to expel 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,” said the EFF in a statement on 14 May. “The expulsion of the Israeli mission must form part of the first move towards an international isolation of Israel by the whole world.”

Violent clashes broke out in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel declaring Jerusalem its new capital and with the United States endorsing the decision by moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Thousands of Palestinians protested the formal opening of the US Embassy on Monday and approached the border fence.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, furious over the embassy ceremony, said he "will not accept" any peace deal proposed by the Trump administration. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Monday described the relocation of the embassy as "short-sighted." As a result of the US decision, protesters gathered along the Gaza Strip border with Israel to voice their disapproval.

International reaction

Numerous countries have condemned the violence and use of live ammunition. Egypt, who has until now been an important Israeli ally, condemned the killing of Palestinian protesters. Monday's statement by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned "the use of force against peaceful marches." The UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, decried the "shocking killing of dozens."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel to respect the "principle of proportionality in the use of force" and show restraint. Mogherini also called on Hamas to ensure that any further protests remain peaceful. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a similar appeal.

Jared Kushner, chief Middle East adviser to President Donald Trump, placed the blame on the Gaza protesters. "As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution," he said. Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, said the mass border protests would continue "until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved."

In response to the shooting of Palestinian protesters, Kuwait is seeking an emergency UN Security Council meeting. Iran's hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has condemned Israel's killing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar has also condemned Israel for shooting protesters. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his concerns Monday in Vienna, saying "I'm particularly worried about the news coming from Gaza with the high number of people killed."

According to AP, the Israeli military carried out five airstrikes in Gaza after militants exchanged fire with soldiers. Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the military struck training camps of the militant Islamic group Hamas that rules Gaza and which has been leading protests along the border with Israel. In addition, the army says it used airstrikes and tank fire against Hamas targets in Gaza after squads of gunmen opened fire and tried to plant bombs along the border. "We saw more than five explosive devices. We saw shooting at forces," said Manelis. AP also reported that Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, another army spokesman, said hundreds of protesters carried out "concerted, coordinated" attacks on the border fence in an attempt to infiltrate.

The Israeli military added that there were no border breaches during Monday's Gaza demonstrations, despite an "unprecedented" level of violence.

President Donald Trump said the US remains "fully committed" to pursuing a Mideast peace deal. In a videotaped message to the opening ceremony on Monday, Trump said the new embassy has "been a long time coming." Moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was one of Trump's key campaign promises and one that was welcomed by Israel. Trump said his "greatest hope" is for peace. He said the United States "remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement."

Israel's prime minister said Jerusalem will always be the "eternal, undivided" capital of Israel. Addressing the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "glorious" day. Netanyahu thanked President Donald Trump for showing the "courage" to keep a key campaign promise and says relations with the US have never been stronger.

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