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South Africa’s Zuma ‘appalled’ by Israel campaign

South African President Jacob Zuma voiced outrage Monday over civilian deaths in Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip but distanced himself from calls to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters,” Zuma told a news conference in Washington where he was attending a US-Africa summit.

“We call upon all sides to lay down arms and work towards a negotiated solution that will lead to an internationally recognized and supported two-state solution,” he said.

Zuma also condemned the killings of Israeli civilians by the Palestinian militant movement Hamas and voiced skepticism over calls within his African National Congress party for the Pretoria government to kick out Israel’s ambassador.

“It cannot just be a quick thing,” Zuma said when asked about South Africa’s response to the Gaza crisis.

Zuma, without explicitly ruling out the expulsion of the ambassador, said that South Africa needed to act in a way “that will benefit both countries of the Middle East in the long end, and as a country we do have to take a bigger picture.”

South Africa has frequently been critical of the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, which had cooperative relations with the former apartheid regime.

Former archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle against the former white-dominated regime, recently likened Israeli policies to apartheid. Israel voices outrage over such comparisons.

More than 1,800 Palestinians and 64 Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza, and three civilians in Israel, in the latest conflict. Israel has sought to eliminate Hamas rocket fire and infiltration tunnels from the impoverished Gaza Strip.