South Africa has expressed its concern over the escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestine territories to Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk.
On Wednesday, Lenk was summoned to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria for a meeting with Deputy Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo.
Mfeketo expressed South Africa's grave concern over the escalation of violence, which has resulted in the loss of civilian life and the destruction of property in Gaza.
Israeli-Palestinian violence has flared in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in late June, and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem earlier this month. Militants in Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks against Israel, and Israeli airstrikes on the enclave have intensified.
Mfeketo told Lenk that the South African government strongly opposed any threat of ground invasion, and urged Israel to refrain from making utterances that could worsen the situation.
The government called on Israel to immediately cease its air strikes into the Gaza Strip, to allow safe and free passage for civilians, and to make it possible for humanitarian organisations to work on alleviating the suffering of victims of the violence.
Mfeketo said South Africa was opposed to any attempt to use the current situation to undermine the unity government in Palestine, whose advent was warmly welcomed by peace-loving people the world over.
In addition, Pretoria demanded that the Israeli authorities lift all restrictions to the importation of building material and equipment into the Gaza Strip to enable destitute families and the Gaza administration to re-build homes and infrastructure destroyed by Israeli acts of aggression.
"The South African government also demands the immediate halt to the construction and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the Israeli government, which violates international law, gravely undermines peace efforts, and threatens the viability of the two-state solution," Mfeketo said.
In response, Lenk explained Israel's position on the conflict, and said he would convey South Africa's message to his government.