Pretoria - South Africa notes with the gravest concern reports that Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza and that there are casualties following the attack. South Africa accordingly strongly condemns this action which reportedly took place in international waters, 65 km off the coast of Gaza, in the early hours of Monday 31 May 2010.
Media reports indicate that the convoy was carrying 10 000 tonnes of aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza. The convoy was on 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 Department of International Relations & Cooperation is in urgent contact with our Missions in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Ankara, where some of the ships originated, in order to obtain more information on the attacks.
Unconfirmed media reports indicate that between 10 and 16 persons were reportedly killed or injured. 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. South Africa also strongly criticized 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. It is this siege which has caused untold hardships for the ordinary people of Gaza and which prompted the international community to organise such relief efforts to the territory and therefore Israel stands solely responsible for the loss of life during this action.
South Africa would also like to recall the recent Goldstone report which was highly critical of Israel in the carrying out its military actions in Gaza with the resultant loss of life of innocent civilians.
Again, South Africa calls for a concerted international effort to bring about a broader solution to the question of Palestine, which will ultimately contribute to the establishment of peace in the region.
South Africa also trusts that the international community will not leave this latest act of provocation on the part of Israel unresolved due to the seriousness of this action, which took place in international waters and which involved citizens from across the globe.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Chief Director for Public Diplomacy, Saul Kgomotso Molobi, on +27 12 351 1000, +27 82 940 1647 or e-mail him at email@example.com
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation Private Bag X152 PRETORIA
31 May 2010