x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hundreds held as UN seeks investigation into Israeli raid

Israeli police have jailed or deported hundreds of international activists arrested aboard Turkish-backed aid ships bound for Gaza.

Israeli police have jailed or deported hundreds of international activists arrested aboard Turkish-backed aid ships bound for Gaza in a naval operation that left nine people dead and sparked world outcry. The UN Security Council met in emergency session to discuss Israel's storming of the flotilla, with the 15-nation body calling for an impartial investigation. "This is tantamount to banditry and piracy," the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the council. "It is murder conducted by a state." Most of those who died in the incident were Turks, according to one senior Israeli officer.

Big questions were unanswered: notably, how far Israel could continue to blockade 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after condemnation from allies; and how Israeli commanders miscalculated the situation and dropped marines onto a Turkish ship where they felt they had to open fire to save their lives. While diplomats worked on damage control, Israel's navy said it was braced to intercept another aid ship, MV Rachel Corrie, that could reach Gazan waters later on today or Wednesday. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, flying home from Canada after cancelling a White House meeting on Tuesday with US President Barack Obama, planned to convene his cabinet on his return to Jerusalem, officials travelling with him said.

About 700 activists, many Turks but including Israelis and Palestinians as well as Americans and many Europeans - among them politicians, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and Swedish author - were processed in and around Israel's port of Ashdod, where the six ships of the blockade-running convoy had been escorted. They were detained incommunicado, ensuring no contradiction of Israel's version of Monday's events.

The Interior Ministry said 50 activists had been taken to Ben-Gurion Airport for voluntary repatriation. About 629 had refused, and would be jailed while Israel weighed legal options. A total of 30 were in hospitals with injuries. The Israeli internal security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said police were gathering evidence to prosecute activists who had set upon the marines with fists, batons, knives and gunfire.

"All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law," he told Israel Radio. * Reuters