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World Outcry Over Israeli Flotilla AttackMa'an News Agency special to Salem-News.com
Reported by the Ma'an News Agency. This is their latest update:
(Bethlehem - Ma'an) - As several European countries summon their Israeli ambassadors, a chorus of condemnation has been voiced by world leaders and governments over Israel's raid on an aid convoy destined for Gaza, in which at least 10 activists were killed on Monday morning.
A statement issued by the UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza. "I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved."
Hague said that while the UK has repeatedly advised against attempting naval access into Gaza "there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries."
The incident, he wrote, underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza. "The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis," noting serious concerns "about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians."
UN 'shocked' by killings
The UN office for the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process issued a statement saying they were "shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on board boats carrying supplies for Gaza, apparently in international waters."
The response came following an attack by Israeli military and naval forces on six aid ships bound for Gaza, where sources said 10-16 civilian activists were killed.
"We condemn the violence and call for it to stop," the statement said, noting UN officials were "in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation.
"We are also urging them in the strongest terms to ensure that no further steps are taken that could endanger civilian lives. We wish to make clear that such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza," the statement concluded.
Turkey warns of 'irreversible consequences'
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was further quick to denounce the Israeli navy's actions on board the Freedom Flotilla, saying "This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations."
The statement said "Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians. We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel," and condemned the use of force on the ship transporting women and children.
Ankara has summoned Israel's Ambassador, demanding an explanation on the raid. "Whatsoever the motives might be, such actions against civilians who are involved only in peaceful activities cannot be accepted. Israel will have to bear the consequences of these actions which constitute a violation of international law."
Erekat condemns 'brutal attacks'
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat described the raid on the Freedom Flotilla as a war crime and said "What Israel does in Gaza is appalling; no informed and decent human can say otherwise," a statement read.
"The unarmed civilian activists were attacked on foreign vessels while sailing in international waters. This is another incident confirming that Israel acts as a state above the law. The international community must take swift and appropriate action. "
Erekat referred to the current status of Gaza. "The Israeli government has been trying to deny that Gaza is under occupation. But the fact that Israel is preventing humanitarian aid to freely access the besieged strip clearly shows that Gaza is still occupied."
The chief Palestinian negotiator called on the international community to "act immediately to end the illegal Israeli siege and to protect the civilians savagely attacked by Israeli forces."
Fayyad: Crime shows Israeli disrespect for lives of innocent civilians
"The Israeli Army forces have committed a crime against international supporters on board the Freedom Flotilla early this morning, who were seeking peaceful means to deliver humanitarian aid and end the unjust siege imposed by Israel on our people in Gaza," a statement issued by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's office read.
"The Palestinian government strongly condemns this crime, which portrays, once again, Israeli disrespect for the lives of innocent civilians, and its disrespect for international law. It also reveals the dire need to put an end to Israel’s aggressive policy, by an unconditional and unlimited lifting of the siege on our people, mainly in Gaza."
The statement added that the Ramallah-based government urges the international community to condemn the attack, and "implement the repeated international calls for lifting the siege, including the international decision at the Sharm El Sheikh Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza and the European Union Declaration last December and other international stands," and "practical steps that commit Israel to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and respect the unity of the Palestinian territories."
The Palestinian response, the Palestinian premiere's statement read, was to speed up an end to internal division and "calls on all parties, especially Hamas movement, to positively respond to the efforts to achieve national reconciliation and reunite the homeland and unify the Palestinian efforts against the Israeli occupation policies of siege and settlements, and mobilize the energy of our people towards ending the occupation and building the homeland."
Jordan says Tel Aviv 'fully accountable'
Jordan on Monday firmly condemned Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla with Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Nabil Sharif rendering the offensive, spearheaded by Israeli naval forces on the relief convoy, as " a heinous crime," the state-run Jordan News Agency wrote.
"This is rejected, unjustified and unprovoked belligerence and a gross breach of international laws and conventions," he added.
"Jordan follows up the incident with deep concern ... Tel-Aviv is fully held accountable in regard to safety of Jordanian nationals aboard the convoy," he underlined, the news agency reported.
Sharif, who is also the Jordanian government's spokesman, urged the international community to promptly take necessary and unequivocal action to press Israel lift the unfair blockade on the coastal strip, the JNA wrote.
He added the Jordanian embassy in Tel-Aviv conveyed a letter condemning the act and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recalled the Israeli envoy in Jordan.
Turkey called in its Israel representative for an official explanation, the EU publicly called for an investigation into the incident, and according to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, an emergency Arab League meeting to be held to address the situation.
Israeli press said officials were doing damage control, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak phoning the Turkish defense minister, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the Turkish ambassador to Israel shortly after the attack on the ship.
The European Union called for a comprehensive inquiry into deaths, and urged Israel to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
High Representative Catherine Ashton released a statement via her spokesperson expressing deep regret at the news of loss of life.
"On behalf of the European Union she demands a full enquiry about the circumstances in which this happened ... She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza," the spokeswoman was quoted as saying by the Israeli daily news site Yedioth Ahronoth.
The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, also condemned the Israeli attack. "Despite repeated calls for all involved to act with restraint and responsibility, the interception of the convoy in international waters has resulted in many casualties. This is an unjustified attack, which has claimed at least a dozen lives," he said in a statement, adding: "It is a clear and unacceptable breach of international law, especially the fourth Geneva Convention. We demand that Israel explains its actions immediately, with the utmost transparency, and guarantees full accountability by co-operating with any full inquiry that is to be set up."
In the statement, President Buzek said: "The European Parliament also urges High Representative Ashton to take steps within the Quartet to force Israel to lift the siege on the people of Gaza immediately and unconditionally. We cannot stand by while 80% of the Gazan population is living below the poverty line."
Arab League: Deciding our next step
Arab League chief Amr Moussa slammed the deadly raid, issuing a condemnation on the part of the official body.
"We condemn this crime, taken against a humanitarian mission and people. They were trying to help people. They were not on a military mission. Everyone should condemn this," Moussa told the Agence France-Presse. "We are now conducting calls to Arabs to decide on our next step."
Lebanon: Dangerous and insane step
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized Israel's raiding of the aid convoy and said it "represented a dangerous and insane step which will exacerbate regional tensions," a statement read.
"Lebanon strongly denounces the attack and calls on the international community, particularly the larger powers, ... to take measures in a way that would put an end to these continuous violations of human rights and threats toward international peace," the French daily Le Monde reported.
Source: Ma'an News Agency
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