NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla that left at least 10 dead and dozens more wounded.
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Amid a sharp international outcry across Europe and the Middle East, diplomats gathered in New York for an urgent meeting, with Arab states pushing for a full investigation that would hold Israel accountable for its role in the fatal naval operation. Several states blamed Monday’s bloodshed on Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and called for an immediate end to Israeli restrictions.
Set for 1 p.m. New York time, the meeting was called at the behest of several countries, including Turkey, a non-permanent member of the council, and Lebanon, which holds the council presidency until midnight Tuesday.
Addressing the Security Council, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called Israel’s use of force both “inappropriate and disproportionate.”
Israel must be prepared to face the consequences and be held responsible for its crimes, he said.
“This is a black day in the history of humanity when the distance between terrorists and states has been blurred,” he said. “It is murder conducted by a state,” with “no excuse, no justification whatsoever.”
He urged the council to adopt a statement condemning Israel’s actions; calling for a full investigation; and punishing those responsible.
During a visit to Uganda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and called for a “full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place.”
Speaking to reporters in Kampala following the opening of a conference on the International Criminal Court, the top UN official condemned the violence that occurred.
“I am shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on boats carrying supplies for Gaza,” he said.
“I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation,” he added. “Right now, what is absolutely vital is that we first have a full account of the incident, what had happened, and Israel must provide the full explanation on this.”
Amid calls for Israel to be held accountable, several states criticized the blockade of Gaza.
“It is a matter of grave concern that Israeli action should end in such heavy loss of life,” the British ambassador to the UN said. “There is an unambiguous need for Israel to act with restraint.”
He said it was “clearer than ever” that Israel’s restrictions must be limited, and that “the current closure is unacceptable and counterproductive.”'Israel regrets loss of innocent lives, it was not a peaceful protest'
Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, strongly defended Israel’s response, while characterizing the results of the operation as “tragic and unfortunate.”
“Let me be very clear,” he said. “This was not a peaceful protest.”
Those on board the ships “were not humanitarian aid activists,” he said. “What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?”
Carmon said the naval operation had begun as a preventive measure to counter illegal breakage of the Gaza blockade. Israel acted to protect its own civilians and ensure the country’s security.
“Let me remind the council that a state of armed conflict exists between Israel and the Hamas terrorist regime controlling Gaza,” with mortars regularly launched toward Israel, he said. “Let me remind the council that Gaza is occupied by terrorists that ousted the [Palestinian Authority] in a violent coup, and that arms are continuously being smuggled, including by sea.”
A maritime blockade is a legitimate and recognized measure under international law, he said.
“Israel provided, in due time, not only information about the existence of the blockade, but also appropriate notification to the relevant governments and to the organizers of the Gaza Flotilla,” Carmon asserted.
The organizers had other plans, he charged. The soldiers boarding one of the ships were “violently attacked” with live ammunition, knives, clubs, deck furniture and other weapons in what amounted to “no less than a lynch,” he said. “The soldiers undoubtedly acted in self-defense, prompted by the uncontrolled violent attempts on their lives.”
Earlier on Monday, the White House said it “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries incurred during the raid.
“The US deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” a White House spokesman said.
Meanwhile, a group of Arab ambassadors met at the Egyptian mission to the UN in New York on Monday morning to coordinate their effort.
“We condemn this action by Israel and we call, collectively as Arabs, for an independent international investigation to know who gave the orders on the Israeli side to open fire on civilians,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer to the UN.
Speaking to reporters in New York ahead of the Security Council meeting, he said, “The Security Council will have an open session at 1 p.m., and we are exerting all efforts so that the Security Council will shoulder its responsibility, that will rise to the level of crimes of Israel.”
This kind of “provocation and aggression” on the part of the Israelis, he said, was not conducive to peace negotiations, including proximity talks.
And he ridiculed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel a visit to the White House on Tuesday.
“I guess he is so embarrassed to face a new chapter of criminal action against the Palestinian people,” he said.
As the unofficial sponsor of the flotilla, Turkey was among the countries to call immediately for a meeting of the Security Council.
“This attack is another sign of the reckless levels that the Israeli
government’s violent policies have reached,” said Deputy Prime Minister
Bulent Arinc. “We condemn Israel’s attack at the highest level.”
Dozens of stone-throwing protesters tried to storm the Israeli
Consulate in Istanbul after the IDF flotilla raid was reported.
Protesters scuffled with Turkish police guarding the consulate; later,
peaceful demonstrators held Palestinian flags and listened to readings
from the Koran.
Robert Serry and Filippo Grandi, UN officials involved in the Middle
East peace process, condemned the raid and said it had taken place
“apparently in international waters.”
In a joint statement, they said, “We wish to make clear that such
tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of
the international community to end its counterproductive and
unacceptable blockade of Gaza.”
France, Germany and Britain expressed shock at the early morning raid.
In a statement, Tony Blair, the representative of the quartet – which
includes the US, UN, EU and Russia – expressed “deep regret and shock
at the tragic loss of life.”
The statement continued, “We need a different and better way of helping
the people of Gaza and avoiding the hardship and tragedy that is
inherent in the current situation.”
The European Union also criticized Israel for excessive use of force.
The EU called for an investigation by Israel and the lifting of the
Gaza blockade, which it deemed “politically unacceptable.”
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed
“deep regret” at the loss of life and violence and extended her
sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded.