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Barak: Flotilla organizers to blame
By TOVAH LAZAROFF, YAAKOV LAPPIN AND JPOST.COM STA
05/31/2010
Defense minister: IDF tried to disperse Gaza protesters peacefully.
 
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a press conference on Monday that while he was sorry for lives lost, the organizers of the Gaza-bound protest flotilla were solely responsible for the outcome of the fatal IDF raid earlier in the day. Fifteen activists were killed and dozens wounded in the violent clashes.

Barak said that the soldiers tried to disperse the activists aboard the ship peacefully but were forced to open fire to protect themselves.

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He called the flotilla a provocation, specifically called the IHH, an Islamic aid organization, "extremist supporters of terror."

The defense minister also called on Arab and Palestinian leaders not to let this "provocation by irresponsible people" ruin the progress made in proximity peace talks.

Netanyahu supports operation

Netanyahu supports operation
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,speaking in Canada where he is currently on an official visit, said he 'fully supported the IDF operation'.

Ashkenazi: Soldiers acted in self defence
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday that the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships of the Gaza-bound protest flotilla, was instigated by those aboard the ships and that soldiers who opened fire were defending themselves.

Ashkenazi noted that the Mavi Marmara, the only ship on which violence took place, was different than the other five ships of the flotilla. He said that five ships carried humanitarians and peace activists but the Mavi Marmara was sponsored by the extremist organization the IHH and those aboard acted in "extreme violence."

Navy chief praises soldiers 'bravery'

Israeli Navy commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom said Monday that IDF soldiers that raided Mavi Marmara acted with "perseverance and bravery."

Marom said that the soldiers lives were in danger and that they fired their weapons in self defense. He added that given the situation, many more than ten people could have been killed if the soldiers had not acted with the proper sensitivity.

Ayalon: Flotilla was 'an armada of hate and violence'

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that the flotilla of ships "was an armada of hate and violence."

Speaking at a Jerusalem press conference on Monday morning. "It was a premeditated and outrageous provocation" and its organizers had ties to global Jihad, al Qaida and Hamas, said Ayalon.

"Their intent was violent, their methods were violent and their results were unfortunately violent," Ayalon said.

"Israel regrets the loss of life and did everything it could to avoid this outcome," Ayalon stressed, adding that Israel had offered to transport the humanitarian cargo on board the ship to Gaza.

"The organizers on the ship did not heed the calls of our forces this morning to peacefully follow them and bring a peaceful closure to this event," said Ayalon, iterating that the successful arrival of the flotilla in Gaza would have created "a corridor of arms smuggling."

The Foreign Ministry has convened a noon meeting of all ambassadors in the country. The Turkish ambassador was requested to arrive half-an-hour early for a private conversation.

Political echelons, security and police hurried to respond on Monday to deadly clashes that took place earlier in the day between Navy commandos and members of a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza.


Livni offers help with diplomatic crisis

Kadima chair Tzipi Livni called Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to offer her help in dealing with the diplomatic crisis Israel was likely to face in the aftermath of the violent incident.

Livni's party mate Kadima Council head Haim Ramon attacked Netanyahu's government for mishandling the Gaza flotilla affair.

In Canada, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was getting constant updates on the clashes, a foreign ministry spokesman told Army Radio. Netanyahu is in Canada as part of a trip that has him slated to meet Tuesday with US President Barack Obama.

The IDF and police were preparing for the possibility of demonstrations and violence among Palestinians as well as Israeli-Arabs on Monday, amid reports of up to 15 dead.

Northern District police chief Cmdr. Shimon Koren completed an evaluation of the security situation in the North on Monday morning, and ordered a high state of alert and instructed police officers to be ready "for the possibility of any scenario or attempt to cause a disturbance."

Also Monday morning, Israeli NGO Gush Shalom was set to demonstrate in support of the "Free Gaza" convoy, according to an email circulated by the group.

The demonstrators intend to converge outside the center in Ashdod where the detained international aid activists are supposed to be held.

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch cancelled a planned appearance at an anti-violence march in Lod scheduled for Monday. The march will go ahead as planned.
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