Israel flotilla action criticized by friends and foes

Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla set off an international furor on Monday, threatening to further strain ties with Turkey and drawing criticism from friends and enemies alike.

France's foreign minister said he was "profoundly shocked" by the violence that killed at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists on board a convoy of six ships. The European Union called for an enquiry into the incident.

The head of the Arab League said Arab states must reconsider their dealings with Israel in light of the violence while Turkey, traditionally its strongest Muslim ally in the region, summoned the Jewish state's ambassador.

"Israel's attack indicates Israel is not ready for peace. Israel attacked the liberty fleet because it feels it is above the law," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said in Doha.

"There is no benefit in dealing with Israel in this manner and we must re-assess our dealing with Israel," he said.

Israeli commandos intercepted the aid flotilla on Monday. Officials said they were met with knives and staves when they boarded the ships, which included a ferry flying the Turkish flag.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the interception was unacceptable.

"Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behavior," the ministry said in a statement.

Television images from Ankara showed dozens of people gathered outside Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy's residence in the Turkish capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the killings as a massacre and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the violence could not be justified.

"I am profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the Peace Flotilla for Gaza," Kouchner said in a statement.

"The circumstances of this drama must be fully brought to light and we wish for a thorough inquiry to be put in place without delay."

Iran Calls Attack Inhuman

Iran, one of Israel's biggest foes in the Muslim world, said the killings were "inhuman" and would help lead to the Jewish state's demise.

"All these acts indicate the end of the heinous and fake regime and will bring it closer to the end of its existence," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told state broadcaster


In the Arab world, analysts said the incident was such an overreaction to an attempt to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade that it could put the brakes on any further efforts at normalization and may derail the peace process.

Israel has previously halted such activist ships, although some others have reached the Gaza Strip before.

"For the Arab world, any hope of a peace process with this government is going to evaporate. If they are going to react to this simple issue of humanitarian supply this way, the message is very clear," said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center.

Israel says food, medicine and medical equipment are allowed in regularly to Gaza. It says an embargo is needed to stop weapons and materials that can be used to produce them from reaching Hamas Islamists.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said the move was a "crazy step" that risked inflaming conflict in the region.

The Arab League, which has endorsed indirect peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that started last month, called an emergency meeting for Tuesday to discuss the violence.

In Cairo, the violence also inflamed public opinion on the streets.

"What do you expect from a state that even America fears and cannot stop or do anything to except use empty diplomatic words?" said Mohamed Morsi, a 45-year-old restaurant owner.

[Source: By Cynthia Johnston, Reuters, Dubai, 31May10]

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