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Israeli Soldiers Storm Gaza-Bound Flotilla
Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli naval commandos stormed a fleet of six ships traveling from Cyprus to Gaza today. The flotilla was reportedly carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and 700 pro-Palestinian activists. The Associated Press reports that nine passengers died and dozens more were injured during the clashes aboard the cargo and passenger ships.
In response to Israel's move to stop the fleet, Turkey, which was the unofficial sponsor of the flotilla, announced it would withdraw its ambassador to Israel and cancel joint military drills. Turkish officials also called for an emergency United Nations Security Council session to discuss Israel's actions. The AP reports that a meeting of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece was also being scheduled.
After the fleet was attacked, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his plans to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama were scheduled to discuss Middle East peace and Iran's nuclear disarmament. Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, said he regretted today's violence but said that the fleet's organizers were responsible for the violence, and that the incident was a "political provocation" by pro-Palestinian activists. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the Israeli soldiers who stormed the fleet were attacked and were defending themselves when they opened fire. Israeli soldiers arrested 16 pro-Palestinian activists; dozens will be deported.
A U.N. official in the region requested more information. "We are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation," the official said.