World leaders condemn Israeli storming of Gaza aid ships
May 31, 2010
The international community condemned on Monday Israeli aggression against international ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of more than 10 people.
Arab media said 16 people had been killed and more than 30 injured when the Israeli military stormed the six-ship Freedom Flotilla carrying some 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza and 600 human rights activists earlier on Monday.
The Israeli army's press service confirmed the deaths of more than 10 people, adding that four Israeli commandos had been injured in the attack.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton demanded a "full inquiry" into the attack and called for "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza."
Secretary General Amr Musa said that the Arab League would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss Israel's "terrorist attack" on the international ships.
The Free Gaza Movement earlier reported on the Twitter microblogging site that the Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the deck of a Turkish ship and immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians.
Turkey called the attack a "gross violation of international law" and said it could lead to "unpredictable consequences" in relations between Turkey and Israel.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning for the victims of the raid.
"We consider Israel's actions a mass killing and categorically condemn them," Abbas said in a televised address.
Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hania demanded the Palestinian National Authority halt peace talks with Israel, which have been frozen since December 2008, over the attack. He called for international human rights activists to continue attempts to break the Gaza blockade.
Comments condemning the attack also came from Spain, France and other countries.
The flotilla was reportedly attacked in international waters about 150 km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.
An Israeli government spokesman was quoted by the BBC as saying activists on board the ships attacked the Israeli commandos with with axes, knives, bars and at least two guns.
"Unfortunately this group was dead-set on confrontation," Mark Regev told the British broadcaster.
"Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that's 100% clear," he said.
The Free Gaza Movement said "there was no fire from our side."
Israel, which has enforced an almost constant blockade against Gaza since the radical Islamic group Hamas took control of the enclave in summer 2007, earlier called the mission a "provocation" and threatened to intercept the ships and deport those onboard.
MOSCOW, May 31 (RIA Novosti)