SA demands Israel release journalist

The government has summoned the Israeli ambassador to demand the release of a South African journalist held after a raid on a ship in Israel on Monday.

South Africa’s deputy minister of international relations, Sue van der Merwe, summoned Israeli ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg to register the government’s “strongest possible protest” to the Israeli government, after an attack on the ship, the Mavi Marmara on Monday morning.

The ship was part of a flotilla of six ships with over 700 people on board, which was trying to deliver aid to the Gaza strip.

The Mavi Marmara was boarded after it refused to stop and be searched.

A South African journalist, Gadija Davids from Cape Town based radio station, Radio 786, was on board the ship and was apparently held by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). She was not harmed in the attack.

Call for investigation
South Africa demanded a full investigation into the incident, said Van der Merwe in a statement issued by the department.

“A full investigation into the matter which should be prompt, impartial, credible and transparent, as well as conforming to international standards,” she said.

“The government also requests the immediate release of the ships, as well as civilians held by Israel, including one South African citizen and for Israel to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded.”

Van der Merwe called the military action by the IDF “unjustified”.

“[It was] an aberration from acceptable behaviour on the part of a State party in dealing with civilians and that Israel must be held accountable for its actions under international law.”

The boarding of the Mavi Marmara left 10 civilians on the ship dead, while some of the Israeli soldiers were injured.

International condemnation
The Israeli government said it supported the soldiers’ actions, saying the group had not allowed the ships to be searched and had started attacking the soldiers first as they boarded.

South Africa called for international condemnation of the incident and claimed Israel should me made accountable for loss of life during the attack.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it was outraged by the incident, which it called “state-sponsored piracy”, and urged South Africa to withdraw its ambassadors from Israel, as done by Spain and Sweden.

The South African Zionist Federation, however, was critical of South Africa’s stance on the incident, claiming it was “biased and one-sided”.—Sapa

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