Israel Isolated as World Demands Probe, End to Gaza Blockade

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Israel Isolated as World Demands Probe, End to Gaza Blockade

UN Decries Israeli flotilla Raid

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A demonstrator displays a sign reading "Boycott Israel, racist state" outside the Belgian foreign affairs building during a protest in Brussels May 31, 2010. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

The
UN Security Council has condemned acts leading to the deaths of
civilians during Monday's Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid convoy
that was headed to the Gaza Strip.

In a formal statement adopted after more than 10 hours of
closed-door negotiations, the council requested the immediate release
of ships and civilians held by Israel and called for an impartial
investigation.

Prior
to the emergency session, almost all the 15 members of the council
deplored the attack that left at least 10 activists on board the
Freedom Flotilla dead and dozens injured.

"It is clearer than ever that Israel's restrictions on access to
Gaza must be lifted in line with Security Council Resolution 1860,"
Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador, said on Tuesday.

"The current closure is unacceptable and counterproductive," Grant said.

France, Russia and China also called for the blockade to be lifted and for an  independent inquiry.

The United States, Israel's traditional ally, did not
request specifically that Israel end its blockade on the Gaza Strip.
But it hinted that the measure at least should be eased.

Alejandro Wolff, US deputy permanent representative, said that
Washington was "deeply disturbed by recent violence and regrets tragic
loss of life and injuries".

Meanwhile, Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip letting Palestinians cross until further notice.

Palestinian TV said that Mahmood Abbas, the president, phoned Hosni
Mubarak, his Egyptian counter-part, to thank him for "responding to the
massacre" by opening the post.

Deadly raid

The statements reflected the international community's strong disapprovalof Monday's
events in the high seas, when Israeli soldiers stormed the six ships in
international waters about 65km off the Gaza coast.

The ships with about 700 pro-Palestinian activists were carrying
10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid for Gaza, the coastal territory under
a crippling Israeli siege.

Israel insisted that its troops had acted in self-defence after being attacked by those onboard.

But Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, onboard the lead ship Mavi Marmara, said troops opened fire even after passengers had raised a white flag.

Israeli troops have taken the ships to the port of Ashdod after seizing them.

Activists who were injured are being treated in hospitals while 480
others are been detained and subjected to interrogations. Another 48
activists have been deported to their respective countries.

Al Jazeera's Elshayyal is reportedly being held at a detention
facility at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, together with two of his
colleagues.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Ashdod, said: "We are
still trying to get information in terms of the condition of the
passengers...

"An identification and interrogation process has gotten under way,
to identify the individuals and then provide them with the option of
being deported immediately or sent to prison here," he said.

Global outrage

The attack on Freedom Flotilla has incensed people, triggering mass protestsin cities across the world.

Thousands marched in the streets of Istanbul, London and Amman in
Jordan among other cities on Monday, denouncing the deadly raid on the
ships that sought to deliver much-needed supplies to Gazans.

But Israel has remained defiant with Mark Regev, its government
spokesman, insisting that "Israel was totally within its rights under
international law to intercept the ship and to take it to the port of
Ashdod".

He said the people on board the flotilla were not peaceful activists.

"They are part of the IHH, which is a radical Turkish Islamist
organisation which has been investigated by Western governments and by
the Turkish government itself in the past for their links with
terrorist organisations."

Reporting from Jerusalem, Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland said Israel's reaction has largely been of defiance.

"Many [Israeli citizens] have flocked to the port of Ashdod to
basically express their rejection of what they see as the foreign
media's negative spin on events.

"...Israeli spin masters have been going into overdrive, doing their
best possible to spin this event as though the Israeli commandos were
not the ones attacking but rather the attack was perpetrated by people
on board," she said.

Israeli 'cover-up'

But Israeli efforts notwithstanding, the country has come in for strong censure.

Murat Mercan, the head of Turkey's foreign relations committee, said
that activists on board had links to terrorist organisations was
Israel's way of covering up its mistake.

"Any allegation that the members of this ship is attached to
al-Qaeda is a big lie because there are Israeli civilians, Israeli
authorities, Israeli parliamentarians on board the ship," he told Al
Jazeera.

"Does he [Regev] think that those are also attached to al-Qaeda?"

Mark Taylor, an international legal expert, told Al Jazeera that every state, including Israel, has the right to self-defence.

"In this case, we're looking at a humanitarian aid convoy, with
prominent people and activists, clearly not a military target in any
way whatsoever."

Israeli media reported that many of the dead were Turkish nationals.

Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs the Gaza Strip, said the
assault was a "massacre" and called on the international community to
intervene.

The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, urged Arabs and Muslims to
show their anger by staging protests outside Israeli embassies across
the globe.

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