The South African government has recalled its ambassador to Israel following the killing of nine people in an attack by the Israeli military on an international aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

South Africa’s international relations department announced that its ambassador would be recalled following the deaths of the activists during Monday’s clash, which has drawn global condemnation.

“The recall of ambassador Ismail Coovadia is to show our strongest condemnation of the attack. This recent Israel aggression of attacking the aid flotilla severely impacts on finding a lasting solution to the problems of the region,” Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim told journalists in Pretoria.

The Israeli government expressed regret at the move.

"We regret this measure," Israel’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman Yigal Palmor told South Africa’s SAPA news agency.

"But [it] is a sovereign decision of the South African government. We respect that. We would not have done the same and we would have understood the South African government if it had been placed in the same situation. We hope to have him back soon," Mr. Palmor said.

A South African radio journalist, Khadija Davids, was among the around 600 people on the flotilla, which attempted to breach a three-year blockade of Gaza by the Israelis.

She was awaited back in Cape Town after being detained and deported from Israel.

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