10 dead as Israel forces storm Gaza aid boat

May 31, 2010 12:00 am

, GAZA CITY, May 31 – At least 10 people died Monday when Israeli forces stormed a boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for Gaza, Israeli media said, sparking fury from Turkey and calls for an "uprising" from the Islamist Hamas movement.

The Israeli army confirmed "a few people were killed" and said four soldiers had been injured, one of them severely, in the clashes on board one of the boats in which live ammunition was used by both sides.

Media reports also said that senior Arab Israeli Islamist leader Raed Salah had been severely injured in the clashes, in which Gaza-based Hamas TV station said up to 20 people were killed.

The bloody ending to the high-profile mission to deliver supplies to Gaza came on the eve of a meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Israel\’s private channel 10 television, Israeli marine commandos had opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the aid ships, the television said, without giving the source of its information.

The station did not say whether the dead and injured were passengers or members of the Israeli navy.

Israel\’s army radio said between 10 and 14 people had been killed in clashes which broke out after the passengers allegedly tried to grab weapons off the naval commandos who tried to storm one of the boats.

It was not clear whether the clashes were taking place on just one of the six boats making up the aid convoy.

Police said Israeli security forces were put on high alert to handle any "possible disturbances" among the country\’s Arab Israeli population in the wake of the deadly naval raid.

Turkey\’s foreign ministry warned that the raid on the flotilla, which included Turkish vessels, may lead to "irreparable consequences" in bilateral ties.

"We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel," a written statement said.

"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," it said.

The Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip Monday urged Arabs and Muslims to "rise up" in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest against Israel\’s deadly raid.

The Israeli military censor ordered a block on all information regarding those injured or killed during the storming of the ship.

Gaza\’s Al-Aqsa television showed footage of black-clad Israeli commandos descending from helicopters and clashing with activists, as well as several wounded people lying on the deck of the ship.

The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on the last leg of an aid mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

Hamas reacted angrily to the deadly raid.

"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, using the Arabic word \’intifada\’.

Ismail Haniya, the Islamist movement\’s prime minister in Gaza, slammed the "ugly attack" in a statement in which he called for "the United Nations to protect the activists" on board the boats.

The boats had started heading towards Gaza from international waters of Cyprus at 3:00pm (1200 GMT) Sunday, with organisers saying they hoped to enter Gaza waters during the daylight hours.

About six hours after their departure, three Israeli missile boats left their naval base in the northern coastal city of Haifa on a mission to intercept the flotilla, reporters on board one of the vessels said before being told to turn off their phones.

Israel had at the weekend slammed as "illegal" the convoy\’s attempt to break the Gaza blockade and warned it would intercept the ships, tow them to the Ashdod port and detain the activists before seeking to deport them.

It labelled the convoy a media stunt, insisting the humanitarian situation is stable in Gaza despite reports to the contrary from aid agencies and offering to deliver the supplies through its own land crossings.

"This is a provocation intended to delegitimise Israel," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Saturday.


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