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Live coverage: Aftermath of Israel's flotilla raid

Record of reactions a day after Israel's deadly attack on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.

Last modified: 1 Jun 2010 06:32
The Mavi Marmara nearing Ashdod Monday night. (Photo: AFP)

We'll once again be keeping tabs on the latest reaction to Israel's deadly attack on a flotilla of activists carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Yesterday's live coverage is here.

The death toll has been revised down to 10, according to the Israeli army, which also says seven Israeli soldiers were wounded in the attack. Those numbers have been impossible to confirm independently, because the Israeli army has restricted access to the ships, which have been towed to Ashdod port. (All times are GMT, except where noted.)

If you have comments. or any interesting information/links to share, please do -- either in comments below, via e-mail, or on Twitter.

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20:34 pm  Israel says it will deport all the prisoners it took during its raid on the humanitarian flotilla within 48 hours.

20:23 pm Jon Snow, from Britain's Channel 4 News, gives Israeli spokesman Mark Regev a torrid time over his defence of the raid.

19:40 pm Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has told reporters to expect a response to the incident from Arab foreign ministers tomorrow. He said that action will be taken against Israel on legal, political and economic levels. 

19:34 pm  Reporters sans Frontieres, the press freedom watchdog, has called on the Israeli government to release a list of journalists who were arrested in the raid on the flotilla.

18:55 pm   You can read the full text of the Turkish prime minister's speech on the flotilla raid here. Turkey's foreign minister's address to the UN security council is available here.

17:21 pm   Israeli media is reporting that 124 Arab prisoners taken from the humanitarian ships will be released to Jordan, and another 3 to Lebanon. The release is expected to take place within a few hours- keep checking back for more info; Al Jazeera has a correspondent waiting on the border with Jordan.

16:55 pm   I've just heard from Avaaz, the civil society organisation running the petition I mentioned a couple of hours ago; apparently almost 35, 000 people have signed in just a few hours, calling for an impartial investigation into the flotilla raid and for the lifting of the Gaza blockade.   

16:04 pm  British newspaper The Guardian is reporting that flotilla organisers believe two of their boats may have been sabotaged by Israel in a clandestine operation before they sailed. 

15:15 pm   Nato is the latest international organisation to call for an investigation into the incident. After an emergency meeting of Nato's 28 member states called by Turkey, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance's secretary general, said he wanted to see a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" into the raid.  He also called for the release of the ships and the detained civilians.

15:09 pm  Avaaz, the civil society organisation, has set up a petition demanding an investigation into the raid on the flotilla, and calling for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. The petition will be delivered to UN and world leaders if it attracts 200,000 signatures. You can view it here.

15:01 pm Australian and Irish consular officials have been grated access to two journalists who were on board the flotilla. Paul McGeough, an Irish citizen, and Kate Geraghty, an Australian. Both work for the Sydney Morning Herald. McGeough has reportedly told Irish consular officials that he planned to fight the deportation order. More here...

14:35 pm Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, has told said that Israel's raid on the flotilla has provided an opportunity to build Palestinian unity.

The decision of the Security Council is disappointing and does not match the size of the crime. The Obama administration bears the responsibility of shielding Israel from punishment. This proves that the Security Council is at one side and the free people of the world are on another side.

Our brothers on the West bank should take the initiative to stop any negotiations with Israel, direct or indirect. Israel uses such negotiations as a cover for its crimes and as a cover for its policies on the ground, including settlements.

Our brothers in the Palestinian Authorities should also stop the crime of security coordination with Israel. It is inconceivable that Israel, who is killing us and is killing peace activists and who occupies the land and desecrates our holy places, is after all allowed to coordinate with us.

Israel’s crime today is an opportunity for Palestinian unity on the right national platform. It is also an opportunity for the Arab world to re-take the initiative today and to take a strong position against the Israeli bullying and to open the Rafah crossing and to end the siege once and for all.”

13:55pm: Al Jazeera's Issam Zaatar has given an interview to Al Jazeera English in which he says that many of the detainees from the boat held in Israel were told to sign papers saying they had "broken the law." He said those who didn't sign were told they would be imprisoned for several days.

13:45pm: The French  prime minister has demanded the release of the activists detained on the boat.

France demands the immediate release of the boats and of all the civilians who were on board.

13:12pm: Apologies for the brief pause in coverage- in the last hour the EU and Russia have released a joint statement  condemning Israel's use of force and calling for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. The statement came out of a Russia-EU summit currently underway. Interesting that Europe issued this reponse with Moscow and not unilaterally. 

The EU and Russia call for immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to and from Gaza.

12:28pm: That's all for me this afternoon; my colleague Andrew Wander will be taking over the live blog for the afternoon. We'll have a lot more on this story throughout the day, including reactions from the Arab League meeting scheduled for 3pm GMT, and from Washington.

12:19pm: A statement (in Arabic) from the Palestinian Authority's interior ministry says there are no restrictions on who's allowed to travel through the newly-reopened Rafah crossing.

12:15pm: Hamas issued a very positive statement in reaction to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech, calling it "sincere and noble" and praising Erdogan's "courageous position."

The speech was also in line with the positions of the Turkish government, parliament and people, who support the Palestinian cause and call for an end to the siege on Gaza and its suffering [of the people of Gaza].

We hail this sincere and noble tone in the Turkish position and conduct and we call on all Arab and Islamic government to overcome their impotence [and] silence.

11:45am: Issam Zaatar, an Al Jazeera cameraman -- one of several Al Jazeera staff who were on board the flotilla -- spoke with our Arabic channel earlier this morning about the Israeli raid. He describes the moments after commandos landed on the ship:

I was filming, he [an Israeli solider] ran after me with an electric stick [stun gun]. He could not catch me. One of his colleagues hit my hand from behind with a stick [stun gun]. My camera fell down. He ran to crush the camera with his feet. I told him, don’t break my camera. If you want the tapes, I will give them to you. I told him these are media equipment. They had no limits. They used rubber bullets. They used tear bombs. It was an unbelievable scene.

11:37am: His wording is far from conclusive, but the Jerusalem Post seems to think Israel's deputy defence minister, Manan Vilna'i, hinted that Israel sabotaged some of the ships in the Gaza flotilla.

When asked during an Israel Radio interview whether it might not have been possible to stop the ships in a more sophisticated manner, Vilna'i responded, “Every possibility was considered. The fact is that there were ten less ships in the flotilla than were originally planned.”

11:27am: Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has reopened the Rafah crossing into Gaza for medical and humanitarian cases. And he didn't announce a date when it would be closed again (normally the crossing is only opened for several days at a time).

10:56am:  Hamas has issued a statement about this morning's United Nations Security Council statement, calling it "weak and unbalanced." The group said the UN statement "exposes the weakness of the council and casts doubts on its credibility."

10:50am: For those of you just joining us -- waking up in the States, perhaps -- here's a roundup of overnight developments from our Ayman Mohyeldin, Nicole Johnston and Anita McNaught.

10:48am: Erdogan also called out the United States, though without mentioning it by name. While discussing Turkey's "reckless attitude" towards United Nations resolutions, he said that attitude was enabled by "support from somewhere," suggesting that Israel feels it can act with impunity because of its close relationship with the United States.

10:39am: Erdogan is sharply critical of the flotilla raid, and of the Gaza blockade. But he's also said, at least once, that Turkey's relationship with Israel -- its "historical friendship and cooperation" -- is important.

The last few minutes of his speech have been a sort of challenge to the Israeli public: Erdogan said "I believe there are people in Israel who are criticising this incident," and directed his language at them.

We have always contributed to the attempts of Israeli people to maintain peace and stability. Now it is their turn.

Your government's aggressive attitudes, like robbers, like pirates, this is damaging your country's respect in the international arena.

10:33am: Erdogan is speaking right now in the Turkish parliament. He said the flotilla attack "cast a dark shadow over humanity's expectations of peace and cooperation," and criticised Israel for its routine flouting of United Nations Security Council resolutions. He called it a "reckless attitude."


Erdogan addressing parliament [AFP]

He also demanded that the Israeli government share information about the condition of activists from the flotilla.

10:20am: My colleague Rhodri Davies just interviewed Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, and (among other things) asked her about the flotilla attack. Halonen's response:

We have condemned it very strongly. The first thing of course is the situation in Gaza. Isolation is not a constructive way for negotiations. So the people in Gaza should be treated in a human way. They have suffered quite too much. The second part is that, these ships of solidarity have been one effort by the NGO side, and the answer of [the] military is totally impossible to understand.

I think that the leaders of Israel have now seen not only different countries; the EU, and the UN Security Council have strongly condemned the violence, and have been very decisive to say that it has to be stopped, both the blockade and the other violence.

10:05am: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, is currently in a security summit with senior generals and the head of Turkey's intelligence service.

On a somewhat related note: Turkey's defence minister, Vecdi Gonul, said today that he doesn't think the flotilla attack, and the resulting diplomatic crisis, will delay Israel's planned (and long-delayed) sale of 10 drone aircraft to the Turkish military.

10:02am: More video from Tel Aviv yesterday, this time of an Israeli rally against the flotilla attack. It's hard to estimate the size of the crowd -- but the camera does pan the street for a few seconds (around the 2:07 mark), and it's safe to say hundreds of people turned out for the demonstration.

9:57am: Ha'aretz's Barak Ravid relays some finger-pointing from Jerusalem, where unnamed "senior ministers" are angry that they weren't formally consulted about the flotilla raid before it went forward.

9:42am: The Hamas government in Gaza will hold its weekly meeting about one hour from now (10:30am GMT). One item they'll discuss, according to our team in Gaza: whether or not to accept delivery of the humanitarian aid from the flotilla, which Israel is scheduled to transfer this morning via Kerem Shalom.

9:14am: We mentioned earlier that many of the activists come from countries which don't have diplomatic relations with Israel, making it slightly complicated to deport them.

 King Abdullah of Jordan has ordered his government to handle the transportation of those detainees, according to Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, who passes along this note from Amman.

He ordered his government to coordinate the transportation of citizens of other countries to Jordan for treatment and make arrangements to return them safely to their respective countries.

He also ordered sending new convoys of humanitarian and medical aid to Gaza through the Hashemite Charity that is in charge of delivering aid to Gazans since Israel's war on the strip in 2008.

Abdullah has condemned the raid and called it a violation of international law, as have several other members of the Jordanian government.

9:07am: David Cameron, the British prime minister, told Netanyahu to "avoid a repeat of this unacceptable situation" in a telephone conversation last night.

"The Prime Minister deplored the heavy loss of life off the coast of Gaza earlier today. He reiterated the UK's strong commitment to Israel's security, but urged Israel to respond constructively to legitimate criticism of its actions, and to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this unacceptable situation.

"The PM also stressed the importance of urgently lifting the blockade of Gaza, and allowing full access for humanitarian aid."

8:50am: Reuters spoke with several Turkish activists from the flotilla following their deportation from Israel. One of them says the ship's captain warned passengers, "They [the Israeli army] are firing randomly, they are breaking the windows and entering inside."

8:47am: The Israeli army killed two Palestinian men along the Israel-Gaza border near Khan Younis, according to military sources and Palestinian news reports.

The army says both men were armed, and trying to sneak into Israel from Gaza. The Ma'an News Agency can't confirm those reports (in Arabic), but says a woman was wounded by gunfire in the same area.

Not clear whether the shooting (shootings?) are related to the flotilla attack.

8:37am: Six Greek citizens are back in Athens after accepting deportation from Israel, according to the Associated Press, which interviewed the activists about the flotilla attack.

They said Israeli commandos who boarded the boats they were on beat activists with clubs and used electric shocks, and that they could hear shooting as the Israeli forces boarded a Turkish boat that was ahead of them.

The Greek government has had one of the stronger reactions to the attack: It suspended joint military exercises with Israel and issued a harsh statement condemning the raid.

8:29am: Netanyahu is scheduled to land in Israel this morning (after cutting short his trip to North America). He's called a meeting of his inner cabinet for 4pm local time (1pm GMT).

The inner cabinet is a smaller seven-man subset of the full cabinet; it usually convenes to discuss issues related to foreign policy and security.

8:22am: We did several updates yesterday on the large protest outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, which attracted 10,000 people and lasted until midnight.

But there was also a protest in Israel, outside the Turkish embassy, where several hundred Israeli citizens defended the flotilla attack. At least one demonstrator carried a sign calling Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "fascist."

Danny Danon, a senior member of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party, attended the rally.

8:13am: I'm curious to hear a Turkish reaction to the UN Security Council statement issued this morning; it sounds like it was much weaker than what the Turks hoped for.

In the meantime, we've heard a brief reaction from Riyad Mansour, Palestine's permanent observer to the UN.

Obviously we would like to see a stronger statement... but this agreement was reached in spite of all these different interpretations [of the attack].

7:59am: Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, called the Israeli raid unsuccessful in an interview with BBC radio this morning.

It's obvious, and I won't beat around the bush on this, that this wasn't successful.

7:37am: Here's the full statement from the United Nations Security Council:

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 Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.

The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.

The Security Council takes note of the statement of the UN Secretary–General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of Resolutions 1850 and 1860. In that context, it reiterates its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

The Security Council underscores that the only viable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement negotiated between the parties and re-emphasizes that only a two-State solution, with an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours, could bring peace to the region.

The Security Council expresses support for the proximity talks and voices concern that this incident took place while the proximity talks are underway and urges the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region.

7:19am: An addendum to the news that the Israeli army will transfer humanitarian aid from the flotilla to Gaza: Even before the ships landed, the army had promised to conduct such a transfer, but warned it would require several days of security screenings.

The army has greatly accelerated its timetable: The cargo will be transferred at 8:30am GMT, less than 24 hours after the ships were brought to port.

That could be, in part, a result of the United Nations Security Council statement issued this morning, which "urges Israel to ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination."

7:05am: Neil MacFarquhar, the New York Times' United Nations correspondent, has some details about the back-and-forth at Monday's marathon Security Council meeting. He describes the meeting as essentially a standoff between the Turkish and American representatives.

Turkey proposed a statement that would condemn Israel for violating international law, demand a United Nations investigation and demand that Israel prosecute those responsible for the raid and pay compensation to the victims. It also called for the end of the blockade.

The Obama administration refused to endorse a statement that singled out Israel, and proposed a broader condemnation of the violence that would include the assault of the Israeli commandos as they landed on the deck of the ship.

6:57am: The Israeli army tells us it plans to transfer the humanitarian aid from the flotilla into Gaza, via the Kerem Shalom crossing, at 8:30am GMT.

6:36am: Speaking of the Egyptian government and its role in the blockade: The Guardian's editorial about the flotilla attack assigns some blame to Cairo, calling the government "complicit" in the blockade and noting that it "will not welcome the intense embarrassment that Israel has caused it."

6:31am: There's still a lot of confusion about how international law treats the flotilla attack. Some are calling it an act of piracy; that's wrong, because piracy is carried out by private actors, not state armies. The blog Mondoweiss tries to tackle the legal questions here.

Regardless of the terminology, though, it seems clear that the Israeli government expected to act with impunity -- that it wasn't overly concerned with the legal consequences of its actions. Robert Fisk, in a column today for The Independent, tries to contextualize yesterday's attack by pointing to several past examples of Israeli impunity.

Now Israel's only ally in the Muslim world is saying this is a massacre – and Israel doesn't seem to care.

But then Israel didn't care when London and Canberra expelled Israeli diplomats after British and Australian passports were forged and then provided to the assassins of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It didn't care when it announced new Jewish settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem while Joe Biden, the Vice-President of its erstwhile ally, the United States, was in town. Why should Israel care now?

6:20am: A second flotilla is on its way to Gaza, according to the Free Gaza Movement: Organisers said this morning that they'll send two more ships to the area, including the Rachel Corrie, currently about 300km from Gaza's territorial waters. (The ship was supposed to be part of the first flotilla, but it was delayed for several days due to mechanical problems.)

6:07am: The United Nations Security Council just issued its final statement on the flotilla attack, after more than 10 hours of closed-door deliberations.

The statement condemns "those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded," and calls for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

The statement also demands the immediate release of both civilians and ships detained by Israel.

5:30am: There were two protests in Egypt yesterday, the first of which (outside the foreign ministry) attracted only a few dozen people. But the second one, in Ramses Square, was much larger -- thousands of people attended.

It's often overlooked, but the Egyptian government plays a role in blockading Gaza: It places very tight controls on the movement of goods and people, despite allowing some aid through the Ouja crossing. That's why so many commodities are smuggled illegally through underground tunnels (which Egypt is now trying to close with an underground wall).

Issandr El Amrani, a Cairo-based journalist, attended the protests last night and blogged about the possible ramifications of the flotilla attack for the Egyptian government.

It's important to note that this is the biggest protest about Palestine since the Gaza war, in an atmosphere in which such protests have not been tolerated. We might see more in the next few days, including on Friday after prayers... when Turkey expels its ambassador and Egypt is seen to be doing nothing, it looks very, very bad for Cairo.

5:17am: The latest update from our producer in Ashdod: All 535 passengers have been offloaded from the Mavi Marmara, according to the Israeli foreign ministry. So the ship is now empty, and sitting in port in Ashdod.

Many of the passengers on board come from countries -- Lebanon, Algeria, Yemen, others -- which have no diplomatic relations with Israel. So the Israeli government cannot put them on planes to their home countries (you can't exactly get a Tel Aviv-Sana'a flight). They will be detained until a third country agrees to accept them and coordinate their flights home.


Protesters in Los Angeles Monday [AFP]

4:58am: One of the 48 activists already headed home: Edward Peck, an 81-year-old former US ambassador.

4:55am: News agencies are reporting that 48 activists from the flotilla will be immediately deported from Israel; another 480 or so will be detained in Beersheba, pending legal appeals (and eventual deportation).

4:47am: The Israeli media reaction to yesterday's attack is falling mostly along predictable partisan lines.

The conservative-leaning Jerusalem Post carries a column from David Horovitz that criticises the Israeli government's diplomatic and PR response -- but not the attack itself. Gil Hoffman, the newspaper's chief political correspondent, similarly faults the army for waiting too long to release videos of the attack.

The clips came out just in time for the 8 p.m. news, which likely helped reassure Israelis that we were in the right. But preaching to the converted does not help in a conflict that is being fought on the battleground of international public opinion.

In the usually left-leaning Ha'aretz, meanwhile, Bradley Burston condemns the attack as a major folly.

We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege is becoming Israel's Vietnam.

Yossi Melman, the newspaper's military affairs correspondent, is even harsher, calling the raid "stupid and tragic" and a reminder that Israel's "policies of force fail."

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most popular daily, reports (in Hebrew) on the growing blame game within the Israeli government. An unnamed official in the Israeli army blames "the political level" -- the government -- for the raid, and a cabinet minister acknowledges that "we didn't understand how explosive this story is."

3:59am: The US state department issued a longer reaction last night that largely echoes President Obama's statement: It says the US "regrets the tragic loss of life" on board the flotilla, and calls for an investigation, but doesn't condemn Israel for its actions.

3:49am: Here's a roundup of the regional and international reaction to the attack, from Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh and Nadim Baba:

We also have a partial list of reactions posted over on the main Web site.

3:38am: Human Rights Watch, like Amnesty International yesterday, has called for a full investigation of the flotilla attack, carried out with international oversight.

“A prompt, credible, and impartial investigation is absolutely essential to determine whether the lethal force used by Israeli commandos was necessary to protect lives and whether it could have been avoided,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Israel's poor track record of investigating unlawful killings by its armed forces, the international community should closely monitor any inquiry to ensure it meets basic international standards and that any wrongdoers are brought to justice.”

3:27am: Diplomats from United Nations Security Council countries are still haggling behind closed doors over a resolution regarding yesterday's deadly attack -- specifically, whether the statement should condemn Israel's actions, or merely to regret the loss of life.