Monday, May 31, 2010

Netanyahu cancels Obama meeting amid raid furore

Notice: No mention of bullets hitting activists before the boats were boarded.

Times Online

Israel’s prime minister has cancelled a planned meeting with President Obama to deal with the escalating international crisis over an attack by the Israeli military on civilian aid ships that left at least 10 dead.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, is in Canada and had been due to visit the White House tomorrow after a series of increasingly fractious meetings with the US over the stalled Middle East peace process.

But after Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla overnight, killing up to 19 according to some reports and leaving dozens wounded, Mr Netanyahu has found his country the target of international condemnation and protest.

He said he gave the Israeli military his “full backing” but after initially saying his trip would continue, his office said it had been cancelled.

The Israeli army admitted to 10 deaths in the operation, with reports suggesting nine victims of the violence – which mainly took place on a Turkish vessel – were from Turkey. The reports prompted a furious reaction in Istanbul, where tens of thousands of protesters attempted to storm the Israeli consulate, chanting slogans calling for revenge. Turkey, whose relations with Israel were already tense, immediately withdrew its ambassador and cancelled joint military exercises. At least 28 Britons were aboard ships in the flotilla but it is not known if any of them were involved in the violence.

An Israeli government spokesman said its troops were attacked last night with knives and metal pipes as they attempted to board one of the ships from a helicopter. He said that shooting started when one of the civilians made a grab for a soldier’s gun.

A total of ten soldiers were wounded, including at least one hit by live fire, the army said. Two of the dead activists had fired pistols snatched from soldiers, the army said.

As the Israeli Defence Force towed the six ships into the Israel port of Ashdod, some of the wounded were ferried to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

Countries around the world condemned the raid, with the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay saying she was “shocked” at the violence and the UN Middle East envoy saying that “such tragedies are entirely avoidable”. The UN security council is to meet this afternoon over the crisis. Hamas, the Islamist group which rules the Gaza Strip, called on Muslims around the world to “rise up” in protest.


No comments:

Post a Comment