June 1st, 2010
02:07 PM ET

Latest developments: Israeli raid on flotilla

Israel began releasing activists detained from a Gaza aid flotilla Tuesday as humanitarian cargo aboard the ships was unloaded and taken into the blockaded Palestinian territory.

Israel's moves came as the Jewish state came under blistering international criticism, especially from Turkey, its closest Muslim ally.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of a "bloody massacre."

"We see clear murder taking place, and we see an aggressive country" that's not regretting this, Erdogan said Tuesday in a parliamentary address. "We're sick and tired of your lies. Be honest."

Also Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak approved the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for humanitarian purposes, state-owned television reported.

The border crossing linking Egypt to Gaza will be kept open for only a few days, Palestinian officials said.

Meanwhile, three people died in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian sources told CNN. The Israel Defense Force (IDF)confirmed it launched a strike that generated secondary explosions, suggesting that ammunition or explosives were in that area.

Israeli imposed a blockade of Gaza in 2007 after the militant Hamas took control of the Palestinian area and Egypt closed off the Rafah crossing. The aid flotilla challenged the blockade.

The IDF said the aid aboard the flotilla's three cargo ships had been transferred into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, a main entry point used by Israel.

In the pre-dawn raid, Israeli soldiers rappelled onto the deck of the ships from a helicopter. The boarding of the ships took place in international waters more than 70 nautical miles (130 km) outside Israeli territorial waters, according to IHH, one of the flotilla organizers.

It is not clear how many people died. Israel put the number at nine, but did not release the names of those who died. The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups that organized the six-ship convoy, said the fatalities numbered higher but did not offer an exact number.

Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded in the raid, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday. And Turkey was dispatching three planes to bring back 20 wounded citizens.

Israel described the flotilla as a "provocation" and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a scheduled meeting with Obama this week to return to Israel to manage the crisis.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli troops had faced a lynch mob.

Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told CNN on Tuesday that Israel regrets the casualties but said "the sole responsibility" for the violent incident lies with activists who have "chosen violence and confrontation."

Israel said that 600 activists in the flotilla were transported to Beer Sheva prison in southern Israel.

Activists directly involved in violence against Israeli soldiers will be charged accordingly, said an Israeli foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Forty-five activists agreed to identify themselves to Israeli authorities and are citizens of the following countries: Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom. They have now either left Israel or are on their way out of the country, an Israeli official said.

Those who remain detained are ones who have refused to identify themselves to Israeli immigration authorities, an Israeli Prison Authority spokesman told CNN. None have been placed under arrest, he said.

Among the ones who have refused to give their names are many foreigners, a police spokesman said.

The process involved in deporting these latter protesters is more complicated because it requires the involvement of foreign diplomats, police said.

Citizens of Arab countries were being prepared for release, two diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

All Arab citizens besides Egyptians will be released from Beer Sheva and moved to the Jordanian border for deportation Tuesday evening, an Arab and an Israeli source said. Egyptian nationals will be transferred elsewhere, but it's unclear when. Israel shares a border with Egypt.

The attack sparked protests in several countries and brought condemnation worldwide.

The U.N. Security Council called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent" investigation into Monday's raid by Israel.

"The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza," the 15-member council said in a statement.

"The council in this context condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and expresses condolences to the families," it said.

The ships were carrying more than 10,000 tons of aid and 600 passengers from more than 20 countries, according to the Free Gaza Movement.

About 1,000 people from an Islamic hard-line group rallied peacefully in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday to protest the Israeli action. Rallies were planned as well in New York and Chicago, Illinois.

Despite strong condemnation of the deadly attack, especially from Turkey, the delivery of four Israeli drones to Turkey will not be interrupted, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said on Tuesday.

"We expect the remaining Herons to be delivered in June or July," Gonul said.

Some of the first accounts emerged Tuesday from eyewitnesses who were aboard several boats stormed by Israeli forces as they approached Gaza the day before.

Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, was on board the Miva Marmara, the ship that was the scene of the confrontation between activists and Israeli soldiers. The Israeli Navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters, Zoabi said during a news conference in Nazareth, Israel. She said passengers on board the ship were unarmed.

Israel has said its forces found several weapons among the passengers on the Miva Marmara. Israel also has said that its forces started shooting after passengers on the Miva Marmara assaulted them.

Zoabi said the military operation lasted about an hour and that she saw five dead bodies in that time.

Israel said the goods that the convoy was carrying were being sent to their intended destination in Gaza. Palestinian officials confirmed that five trucks were allowed into Gaza, carrying wheelchairs.

President Barack Obama expressed "deep regret" at the deaths and "also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible," the White House said Monday.

That did not impress Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, who called the U.S. response "sort of weak."

"Israel should not get away with this," Tan said.

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soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Joshua

    EDDY...

    Peace Activists do not beat others with clubs and knives. They don't strip soldiers of their sidearms and shoot at them. They do not state before sailing that they are prepared for martyrdom. These were NOT peace activists.

    You mentioned watching you LIVE; did you actually WATCH the VIDEO ??

    Finally, when a naval blockade is in place, it does not matter who you are, you WILL be STOPPED.

    There is no question, that Israel is subject to a double standard. This is driven by a deep hatred of Jews, that I simply can not understand or than, that people are a product of your environment and were "taught" by family's that are ignorant, to hate.

    How else can one explain your distorted inaccurate description of said events.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joshua

    EDDY...

    Peace Activists do not beat others with clubs and knives. They don't strip soldiers of their sidearms and shoot at them. They do not state before sailing that they are prepared for martyrdom. These were NOT peace activists.

    You mentioned watching you LIVE; did you actually WATCH the VIDEO ??

    Finally, when a naval blockade is in place, it does not matter who you are, you WILL be STOPPED.

    There is no question, that Israel is subject to a double standard. This is driven by a deep hatred of Jews, that I simply can not understand other than, that people like you are a product of their environment and were "taught" by family's, that are ignorant, to hate.

    How else can one explain your distorted inaccurate description of said events.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joshua

    The reason Israel has a blockade is to stop weapons shipments. Israel has no way of knowing what was in the hold of those six ships and it is ludicrous to assume, that they should just "trust" the flotilla organizers or take their word.

    Organizers were offered the opportunity to disembark at Ashod, have their goods inspected and then have them transferred to Gaza. THEY REFUSED. As a matter of fact, after being towed to Ashod and even after they attacked and seriously injured Israeli soldiers, just about all of the goods were indeed unloaded and transferred, at Israel's expense, to Gaza.

    Israel has on many occasions intercepted ships with offensive weapons, bound for Gaza. One ship they intercepted in the last few years, was overloaded with 200 tons of missiles and armaments, that were to be used against Israel's civilian population.

    Every country has an inalienable right, to defend itself, even Israel.

    June 2, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Forrest Conifer

    If in the Muslim world an "unarmed activist" can be equipped with metal pipes, slingshots and knives. And a "peaceful activist" can provoke international conflicts.

    Don't be surprised if in the Jewish world an "innocent civilian" is a fair military target.

    I still have sincere hope that one day the Muslim world will elect effective leaders with morals and backbone instead of the dictator cowards who contnuously put civilians in harms way.

    What they're doing is not much different than dispatching brainwashed kids strapped with explosives through military checkpoints.

    The world gobbles this up.

    June 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Smith

    Interesting that you use IHH as a source of information. As your reporte stated the other day, they're associated with Muslim Brotherhood, which he characterized, demonstraing his total ingnorance, as "a religious organization"...
    Banned in Egypt due to responsibilty for assassination of Anwar Sadat (the one and only Arab leader truly interested in peace, and he paid the price). Founders of Hamas...

    June 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    I remember when the Kurds were gassed in Iraq. Where was the Turkish outrage? I could be wrong, but I don't seem to recall any. Gee, Israel didn't do it, SO IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING.

    June 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. No Hamas Equals Peace

    Where do most Extreme Muslim's get there News from? You can't discuss anything with anyone that doesn't get told the truth about 50% of history and the status quo. Its pointless. I mean, the palestinians are on film claiming George to be a jew when he was in office. Its actually comical without the suicide bombings. Middle Easterners were so cute till they decided to blow things up

    June 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tia

      Actually there news is 80% the truth especially about another countries. The US news give 20% truth and if you watch fox news you get -100% of the truth so please don't act like your countries media butt don't stink.

      June 3, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. MIKI

    all... IRAN IS THE MAIN CULPRIT.... is the world so blind as not to see what happened here. this whole affair has been a set up.
    behind all this is iran, who planned with turkey to set up this whole "aId ship" and the flotilla to divert attention from the world to its nuclear program and their desire to complete their atomic bomb. this affair managed to get the entire iran issue off the press, no longer was it front page news as it had been for weeks prior to the flotilla issue. the so called activists were nothing less than paid patsies, who were hired to cause trouble and make headlines. they were in fact paid to het killed but the israelis who would be drawn into the ship by false pretences and an ensuing batttle would be the only way they would ensure thaat this story would get nthe recriminations and headlines iran wanted to kill their problem with the west. truth is they succeeeded... israel got succerred in and iran is laughing all the way to their atomic center.
    read the signs, the timming, the facts that the antagonizing activists were all paid thugs, paid antagonists, (some had thousands of dollars in their pockets) having been cash paid to cause trouble, they had slingshots, marbles, knives, daggers, metal poles and chains, and even stun grenades. and had water ;pipes and hoses set up and used against incoming isreli soldiers, whos sole aim was to board the ship and divert it to israeli port. these are not the possessions of peace activists. these are the weapons of paid thugs.. turkey as a governement should be ashamed of itself, for having been the organizers and orchestrator of this sham. israel acted entirely correctly and should stand tall in its defiance of the world "condemnation" of this episode. in time, the investigation will reveal all, and then we;ll see what happens. but for the time being, iran has succeeded in their plan, and we are all fools for playing into their hands

    June 3, 2010 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • tia

      We are not talking about Iran we are talking about Israel believe it or not they are killers. they are the choosing people not anymore. Look in the History books the oppressor eventually do get revenge i hope to see that day before i die. They know the muslims are going to fight back eventually they are nothing but punky soldiers peeing in their pants who is afraid of little kids throwing rocks. Defend them killers if you want pretty soon all of you will see the truth or you will go down with them GOD DO LIKE LIKE UGLY. SHAME ON ANY GOVERNMENT WHO SPENT MY TAX MONEY ON ISRAEL I WANT MY MONEY BACK

      June 3, 2010 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Peshmerga

    Look I appreciate all of you talking about the Kurdish cause. Thanks and no we dont need your help. I would appreciate it if it wasnt used as a bullet towards turkey. I dont remember Israel or any western media talking about the Kurdish suffering in turkey? Once a year maybe..now everytime this flotilla death is brought up you whip turkey for its treatment of Kurds. In my eyes you people are no better than turkey itself. I dont really care about Israel or Palistine. that ridiculous proxy war is none of my concern. but i dont appreciate hypocrytical bureaucrats and no it all reporters that bring the Kurdish cause and struggle as a bullet point.

    July 17, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
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