The move was seen as a major sign of support for Palestine, which has been occupied by Israel for more than five decades.
An Israeli delegation was escorted out of the African Union summit in Ethiopia on Saturday after coming to the event uninvited during an ongoing dispute over its observer status at the bloc.
In a video that went viral on social media, Israeli foreign ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-li, was seen being escorted out of the hall by a security guard.
Qatar attended the event and was represented by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi.
An AU official confirmed to AFP that Bar-li was not invited to attend the meeting and a non-transferable invitation was sent 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 added.
An AU official has also denied a claim made by an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman over Bar-li being “an accredited observer with an entry tag”.
Israel has levelled allegations against Algeria and South Africa, accusing the two of “acting on behalf of Iran” to dismiss Bar-li and holding the bloc “hostage”.
Algeria and South Africa, both of which have previously suffered from decades of occupation and apartheid, are vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause.
Responding to AFP’s question on whether the two African countries were behind the move, Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, said Israeli officials “must substantiate their claim.”
In 2021, Israel was granted observer status in a move that was met with outrage within the AU and globally. In the following year, a debate at the bloc’s summit on whether to completely withdraw Israel’s accreditation was suspended.
However, the matter was reportedly on the agenda for this year’s meeting.
“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s department of international relations, told Reuters.
Israel holds diplomatic ties with 46 African countries. The Palestinian authority has long called on African leaders to withdraw the occupying state’s accreditation.
Last year, reports pointed to Israeli pressure on African nations to accept its observer status at the 55-member bloc.
A ‘welcome’ move
The move to remove the Israeli diplomat on Saturday was seen as a major sign of support for Palestine, which has been occupied by Israel for more than five decades.
“Welcome move at African Union whose charter is committed to opposing apartheid – and should not include the apartheid state of Israel,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), said.
In 2021, DAWN had called on the AU to withdraw Israel’s observer status, citing its “gross violations of human rights and ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
Praising the dismissal of Bar-li from the meeting’s venue, Dr. Abdallah Marouf, Professor of Jerusalem Studies, said,”This is how thieves should always be dealt with… Thank you to the honourable people of Africa.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Popular Palestinian activist Abier Khatib said,”Kudos to Algeria and South Africa.”