First Published: 2010-05-31

World in shock at Israel's deadly Gaza ship raid

Israel's foes and allies close ranks in condemning deadly raid against aid ship heading for Gaza.


Middle East Online

France: 'nothing can justify' the violence of Israel's raid

ANKARA - Shock and outrage swept the globe Monday after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza, as Tel Aviv's foes and allies closed ranks in condemning the deadly raid.

Police struggled to hold back an angry crowd of hundreds outside the Israeli consulate in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul, while furious protesters shouted "Damn Israel" outside the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.

Turkey's foreign ministry warned that the raid on the flotilla, which included Turkish vessels, may lead to "irreparable consequences" in bilateral ties.

"We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel," a written statement said.

"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," it said.

In Europe, condemnation was equally swift.

France said that "nothing can justify" the violence of Israel's Gaza ship raid, and Franch President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" in its deadly raid.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "deeply concerned" about the deaths.

The European Union demanded Israel mount a "full inquiry" into the killing of at least 10 people in a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton warned that Israel's "continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive," demanding "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening" of crossings to Gaza.

Greece withdrew from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the raid, as it summoned Israel's ambassador to demand an "immediate" report on the safety of about 30 Greeks on board the flotilla.

A Greek non-governmental organisation said Monday that Israeli forces in helicopters and inflatable boats fired on a Greek vessel in the aid convoy attacked while heading for Gaza.

"There was an attack with live bullets against the Greek boat Sfendoni and the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, with helicopters and inflatable boats," the Greek organisation said in a statement.

The NGO added that two Greeks were on the Mavi Marmara and 12 others with a Tunisian on Sfentoni, while 22 Greeks and eight Swedish nationals were on the Eleftheri Mesogeio.

Belgium's foreign minister on Monday "invited" Israel's ambassador to "explain" the decision to storm the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, his spokesman said.

Steven Vanackere "invited the Israeli ambassador to explain to him this afternoon how events unfolded," and also to provide news of five Belgian nationals who were on board the flotilla, spokesman Bart Ouvry said.

Italy on Monday "deplored" the loss of civilian life in Israel's raid on aid ships bound for Gaza.

"I absolutely deplore... the killing of civilians" in the assault on Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters, describing the Israeli pre-dawn military action as "really serious."

"An investigation must discover the truth about what happened," he said. "We demand a serious and detailed investigation, and I think the EU must be involved so that it is directly informed of the findings."

The bloody ending to the high-profile mission to deliver supplies to Gaza came on the eve of a meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The democratically elected Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip Monday urged Arabs and Muslims to "rise up" in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest against Israel's deadly raid.

"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Ismail Haniya, the movement's prime minister in Gaza, slammed the "ugly attack" in a statement in which he called for "the United Nations to protect the activists" on board the boats.

"We call on the Palestinian Authority to halt negotiations, direct or indirect, with Israel because of this crime," said Haniya.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas slammed the navy raid as "a massacre" and announced a three-day mourning period.

"We will have to take some difficult decisions this evening," an official from his office told Palestinian television, without giving further details.

The Palestinian Authority also called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council "to discuss the piracy, the crime and the Israeli massacre," said top negotiator Saeb Erakat.

Israel's Arab community called a general strike in response to an Israeli naval operation and called for protests across the country.

In response, hundreds from across the political spectrum flooded onto the streets of the northern Arab Israeli city of Nazareth to protest against the bloody attack.

Kuwait's parliament speaker condemned the raid on the flotilla, which was carrying 16 Kuwaitis including an MP, as a "heinous Israeli crime," as the cabinet prepared for an emergency meeting.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa slammed the raid as a "crime" against a humanitarian mission, saying the 22-country body was consulting to decide on its next step.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he was "shocked" by the deadly Israeli raid and demanded Tel Aviv conduct a full investigation.

"I am shocked by reports of killings and injuries on boats carrying supplies for Gaza," the UN chief said at a press conference. "I condemn this violence," Ban added.

Swedish author Henning Mankell was onboard one of the ships in the Gaza aid flotilla which Israeli commandos attacked early Monday, the Swedish branch of Ship to Gaza said.

The 62-year-old, whose books about world-weary detective Kurt Wallander have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and have been adapted to film and television, said he was partaking in the flotilla to show his solidarity towards the Palestinian people.

"I think that when one talks about solidarity, one must always know that actions are what proves destiny," he told Swedish public radio last Thursday.

"It is with actions that we prove we are ready to support something we believe is important," he said.

Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feiler, the chairman of the Swedish "Jews for Israeli-Palestinian peace," as well as nine other Swedes, including a member of parliament, were also participating in the flotilla.

It remained unclear whether any of them had been wounded in the attack.

The Netherlands expressed shock over the Israeli army's deadly raid on aid ships and said it would ask Israel for "clarifications" about the incident which has triggered worldwide condemnation.

"I am going to ask today for clarifications from the Israeli ambassador to The Hague," said Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen in a statement.

"I am very shocked over the deaths which are deplorable. The Netherlands wants an inquiry to determine exactly how this could have happened," Verhagen said.

"What happened today, while the Israelis and Palestinians were just starting to relaunch talks, will not bring them closer to peace," the Dutch minister added. "I hope that it will not lead to another deadlock in the talks."

Foreign ministry spokesman Bart Rijs said he did not know if any Dutch citizens were on board the ships carrying aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.


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