Israel on Saturday condemned the "severe" expulsion of a senior diplomat from the African Union summit, accusing arch-foe Iran of orchestrating the move with help from Algeria and South Africa.
A video circulating on social media shows guards escorting the Israeli foreign ministry's deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-li, out of the AU assembly taking place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry described the incident as "severe," noting Bar-li was "an accredited observer with an entry tag", a claim denied by an AU official.
The ministry spokesman said it was "saddening to see the African Union taken hostage by a small number of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa, which are driven by hatred and controlled by Iran".
African states should "oppose these actions, which harm the African Union movement and the entire continent," the spokesman added.
An AU official told AFP that the diplomat who was "asked to leave" had not been invited to attend the meeting, with a non-transferable invitation only issued to Israel's ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu.
"It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy," the official said.
Asked about Israel's accusations that South Africa and Algeria were behind the move, Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, told AFP at the summit: "They must substantiate their claim."
Israel attained observer status at the AU in 2021 after decades of diplomatic efforts, drawing protest from powerful members including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that it flew in the face of AU statements supporting the Palestinians.
Last year, unease flared over the accreditation of Israel as an observer at the AU, with the Palestinians — who also have an observer status at the body — urging it to be withdrawn.
The 2022 summit suspended a debate on whether to withdraw the accreditation and a committee was formed to address the issue.
The row erupted when Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the African Union Commission, accepted Israel's accreditation, triggering a rare dispute within a body that values consensus.
The AU has not said whether Israel's status would be up for discussion at this year's summit.
Israel previously held observer status at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but was long thwarted in its attempts to get it back after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.