Blood on the Med: Israeli massacre at sea draws international condemnation

In a blatant act of piracy, Israeli occupation forces on Monday killed 19 people and injured scores of others that had been among 700 activists from 40 different countries aboard the “freedom flotilla” en route to the besieged Gaza Strip.

The flotilla aimed to supply Palestinians in Gaza, who have been under siege for almost four years, with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

Israeli commandos and marine forces, supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships, opened fire on the fleet–while it was in international waters–before ordering the boats to dock at the Israeli seaport of Ashdod.

While Israeli military spokesman Avi Benayahu said he did not know who gave the order to shoot, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his total support for the Israeli army in the wake of the massacre.

A statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday said the crime would have “irreconcilable repercussions” on Israel’s relations with Ankara.

The raid, which took the lives of 15 Turkish citizens on board the lead ship “Marmara,” prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cut short a visit to Latin America and return to his country to follow up on the crisis. His deputy, Bulent Arinc, meanwhile, met with high officials of the Turkish army and interior ministry.

Turkey also canceled three scheduled military exercises with Israel, recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv, and summoned the Israeli ambassador in Ankara to convey Turkey’s condemnation of the act. Turkish Foreign Minister Dawood Uglo was also dispatched to New York to attend a UN meeting to discuss the Israeli raid.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Turkish citizens staged angry demonstrations outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, while Israel warned its citizens to avoid traveling to Turkey.

Only minutes after the massacre, numerous countries and international organizations officially condemned the act, while ten European nations summoned their respective Israeli ambassadors to convey their denunciation of the crime.

Egypt, as usual, was late to condemn the attack. Hours after the incident, the Foreign Ministry announced its condemnation of “all acts of murder” and summoned the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. Later, President Hosni Mubarak condemned what he called “Israel’s unjustified resort to excessive force.”

The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Monday evening to discuss the crisis.

A White House spokesman, for his part, said the US “regrets” the incident and was studying the circumstances that lead up to it.

Netanyahu canceled a scheduled visit to the US on Tuesday to meet with President Obama. Greece also canceled joint military exercises that had been planned with the Israeli air force.

Thousands of people staged demonstrations in Amman and Damascus, while the Arab League announced an emergency meeting of all its representatives on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, along with those living inside the self-proclaimed Jewish state, strongly condemned the Israeli raid, while the Islamic Jihad movement organized a protest march in the Gaza Strip.

Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip, also condemned the raid and called for a general strike in Gaza and the West Bank. “This crime is a political scandal that will have adverse repercussions on the Israeli occupation,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President and US ally Mahmoud Abbas announced a three-day mourning period and ordered all national flags to be flown at half mast. He called on the UN to confront Israel, which, he said, was “flouting international law.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his shock over the incident and called for a “thorough investigation” and for clarification from Israel.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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