Johannesburg - The government was investigating the possibility that there may have been a South African on board the aid ship bound for Gaza that was attacked by Israeli forces on Monday morning.
Calling for the "highest level of international condemnation" following the attack, which reportedly killed more than 10 people, the Department of International Relations said: "South Africa accordingly strongly condemns this action which reportedly took place in international waters, 65km off the coast of Gaza, in the early hours of Monday 31, May 2010."
The department said the convoy, reportedly carrying 10 000 tons of aid, was 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 statement read.
In contact with SA missions
They were in urgent contact with South African missions in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Ankara, where some of the ships originated, to obtain more information on the attacks.
"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."
The department also "strongly criticised" 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.
This had caused untold hardships for ordinary people of Gaza and prompted the international community to organise relief efforts to the territory.
Israel 'solely responsible'
"...And therefore Israel stands solely responsible for the loss of life during this action."
Many governments around the world shared South Africa's sentiments and summoned Israeli ambassadors to meetings.
According to Agence France Presse, Mark Regev, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said those on board the ships initiated the violence.
He claimed the policemen had been attacked with deadly force as they got onto the boats.
Israel warned in the lead-up to the flotilla setting sail it would arrest those on board.
Jerusalem - Pro-Palestinian activists sent another boat to challenge Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and Egypt declared it was temporarily opening a crossing into the Palestinian territory after a raid on an aid flotilla that ended with Israeli soldiers killing nine activists.
The raid provoked ferocious international condemnation of Israel, raised questions at home, and appeared likely to increase pressure to end the blockade that has deepened the poverty of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the strip.
Turkey, which unofficially supported the flotilla, has led the criticism, calling the Israeli raid a "bloody massacre".
Amid the increasing tensions, the Israeli military said it carried out an airstrike in Gaza on Tuesday, and an Islamic militant group said three of its members were killed after firing rockets into southern Israel.
Israeli authorities say the rockets landed in open areas and caused no injuries.
Two militants infiltrating Israel from Gaza were killed in a separate incident on Tuesday, the military said.
The pro-Palestinian flotilla had been headed to Gaza with tens of thousands of tons of aid that Israel bans from Gaza.
After days of warnings, Israel intercepted the flotilla under the cover of darkness early on Monday, setting off a violent melee that left nine activists dead and dozens of people, including seven soldiers, wounded.
Most of the dead were believed to be Turks.
Israel said 679 people were arrested, and about 50 of those had left the country voluntarily. Hundreds who refused to co-operate remained jailed and subject to deportation.
Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to prevent the Iranian-backed Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into the Jewish state, from building up its arsenal. It also wants to pressure Hamas to free an Israeli soldier it has held for four years.
Critics say the blockade has failed to weaken Hamas but further strapped an already impoverished economy. It also has prevented Gaza from rebuilding after a devastating Israeli military offensive early last year.
Egypt, which has enforced the blockade with Israel since Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in 2007, said it was opening the border for several days to allow aid into the area.
The governor of Egyptian's northern Sinai district, Murad Muwafi, said it was a humanitarian gesture meant to "alleviate the suffering of our Palestinian brothers after the Israeli attack".
Several thousand Gazans made a furious rush to the Egyptian border, hoping to take advantage of a rare chance to escape the blockaded territory.
Copenhagen - Israel attacked a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, leaving up to 19 activists dead, only after receiving reports the fleet had links to al-Qaeda, the Israeli ambassador to Denmark claimed on Monday.
"Before the flotilla entered Israeli waters, rumour had it that the organisers (of the aid initiative) had links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network," Arthur Avnon was quoted as saying on the website of public broadcaster DR.
"The people on board were not so innocent ... and I can not imagine that another country would react any differently," the ambassador said before being summoned to the Danish foreign ministry to explain the attack.
Avnon lamented the loss of life but nonetheless defended to DR "the (Israeli) soldiers who were welcomed with violence when they climbed on board. One of them was injured in the stomach and others were injured with baseball bats."
An Israeli military spokesperson said two guns had been discovered on the ships and Israel's military chief, General Gaby Ashkenazi, blamed the violence on Turkish non-governmental organisation (NGO) IHH, which he characterised as "extremist".
Israel's Channel 10 television and Al-Jazeera both reported 19 dead, but the Israeli channel later revised that number down to 10. The Gaza branch of IHH put the death toll at 15, saying most of them were Turkish nationals.
The Israeli military said seven soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously.
Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen earlier on Monday described accounts of the confrontation as "very worrying".