Israeli Raid On Flotilla Draws Condemnation
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The outcry has only grown louder this morning over Israel's deadly raid on a self-styled freedom flotilla headed for Gaza. Early today, the United Nations Security Council called for an investigation, and in a moment we'll hear about what this all means for relations between Israel and Turkey. First, more Turkish boats loaded with supplies are making their way to Gaza and are expected to arrive today.
Sheera Frenkel begins our coverage with this report from Jerusalem.
(Soundbite of video footage)
SHEERA FRENKEL: The Israeli military released this video footage to support its argument that naval commandoes were attacked when they boarded the Marmara ship yesterday. The edited video shows grainy black and white images of Israeli naval commandoes rappelling off Black Hawk helicopters into a crowd of people wielding long batons and other items. There are no images of the ensuing events in which nine activists were killed and dozens more wounded yesterday.
A separate video shot by activists on board the ship show wounded being carried below deck while others huddle under stairwells. The videos have provided fodder for the competing narratives of what happened on board the Marmara, the largest boat that took part in a flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
More boats that were delayed in the departure from Turkey were still en route today and Israeli authorities say that more than 600 activists are being held in the Israeli port city of Ashdod after refusing to be deported.
The international condemnation of the violence has been swift and severe. The U.N. Security Council has called for an impartial investigation into the violence. In Israel, internal criticism and debate has already commenced.
Anshel Pfeffer is a military analyst for the Haaretz newspaper.
Mr. ANSHEL PFEFFER (Haaretz): What went wrong was that the assumption was that it would be simple and straightforward, as it was in all the previous instances over the last year or so. In this case there was a group of 30 or 40 and they were obviously willing to put up a fight, a very spirited fight, and the number of naval commandos was not enough to overtake them. The ferocity of their position took them by surprise.
FRENKEL: Shayetet 13, the Israeli equivalent of Navy Seals, was better trained for covert operations against hostile threats, said Pfeffer. The Israeli military will now launch internal investigations into the decision-making process that led to the deaths.
While Israel questioned the decisions made by their military echelons, Palestinians sought support for investigations into the deaths of the activists and the decision by the Israeli military to intercept the boats while they were still in international waters.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of the Hamas leadership in Gaza, said that Israel should be investigated to see whether they violated international maritime laws.
Mr. MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR (Hamas): The aim is the touching the dignity of the international community, because this land and this area was not belonging to Israel, it was not belonging even to Gaza. It's belonging to international community. To kill people - innocent people - is a (unintelligible) crime.
FRENKEL: He added that the flotilla did succeed in bringing global attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Israel has led since the Hamas takeover there in 2007. The flotilla was attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza. Israel said it will now inspect the aid and would then evaluate delivering it through its own channels.
Mr. AL-ZAHAR: People came in order to make an end for the human beings' suffering and to make an end for this crime committed by the Israelis and by the silence of the international community. We are not going to accept this aid by blood.
FRENKEL: Zahar says the Palestinians will continue to support pressure by the international community for Israel to ease its restrictions on Gaza. Stories from the eyewitnesses on the ship were beginning to emerge this morning. Those wounded remained in Israeli hospitals while dozens of activists who allowed Israel to deport them made their way to their home countries. Many promised that this flotilla was only the beginning and that many more are now sure to come.
For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem.
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