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Israel storms Gaza ships

Israeli navy commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla early Monday, killing at least ten pro-Palestinian activists, sparking global outrage and plunging the Jewish state into a diplomatic crisis.

world Updated: Jun 01, 2010 02:06 IST

Israeli navy commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla early Monday, killing at least ten pro-Palestinian activists, sparking global outrage and plunging the Jewish state into a diplomatic crisis.

The bloody ending to the high-profile aid mission prompted Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a visit to Canada and Washington where he had been due to meet with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

A statement from Netanhayu’s office said however the premier had expressed “his full backing” for the military.

The assault prompted an unprecedented fallout with Israel’s former ally Turkey, which recalled its ambassador on the back of reports that most of the bloodshed occurred on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger ship carrying more than 600 people.

As Israel pointed the finger of blame at passengers for initiating the violence, activists from the ships countered with their own descriptions of how events unfolded in the raid which took place at around 5:00 am (0200 GMT).

Live footage from the Turkish passenger boat, which was posted all over the Internet, showed black-clad Israeli commandos rappelling down from helicopters and clashing with activists, as well as several wounded people lying on the deck of the ship.

Activists from the Free Gaza movement on board the Mavi Marmara, where the worst of the violence occurred, charged Israeli troops “fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep.”

But Israeli military officials and commandos involved in the operation said they had only responded with force after being attacked with knives, clubs and even live fire.

The United States said it “deeply regrets” the loss of life.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas slammed the navy raid as “a massacre” and announced a three-day mourning period.

And Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip called on the Palestinian Authority “to halt negotiations, direct or indirect, with Israel because of this crime.”

India condemns

Without naming Israel, India deplored the “loss of life” on Monday. “There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families... It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force”, a statement from the External Affairs Ministry said.

Decades of Unrest

1967: Israel seizes control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt during the Mideast war and begins to establish settlements there.
1987: The first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupts.
1994: Israel transfers some power in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.
2005: Israel evacuates its settlements in Gaza and withdraws forces.
2006: The Islamic militant group Hamas wins Palestinian elections. West declare Hamas a terrorist group.
2007: Hamas wrests control of Gaza from the Western-backed Fatah. Aug 2008: The first boat sponsored by a pro-Palestinian group reaches the territory. Five more boats follow before Israeli forces began to intervene.
Dec 2008: Israel invades Gaza to try to halt years of rocket fire at Israeli towns. 1,400 Palestinians are killed.