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UN demands impartial inquiry into Gaza flotilla deaths

world Updated: Jun 01, 2010 15:51 IST

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The UN Security Council called today for an impartial inquiry into the Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of aid ships for Gaza, which left nine activists dead.

The statement - after a night of talks and wrangles - called for the investigation to be "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent".

Turkey, the majority of whose citizens appear to be the victims of the attack, was the most trenchant in criticising Israel in the debate.

The statement also calls on Israel to release the ships and all the civilians currently held, and allow the aid onboard to be sent to the Gaza Strip.

It also demands Israel release the bodies of those killed to their national authorities.

At least nine civilians died and 30 more were wounded when the Israeli military boarded one of the six boats in a flotilla that had been seeking to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza, laden with humanitarian aid and activists from numerous countries.

Israel, which insists on inspecting all traffic into Gaza to prevent weapons from being smuggled in, said that armed people on the vessel attacked its soldiers as they rappelled onto the deck.

Most of the casualties were reportedly Turkish, and Turkey sought an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Israel "has committed a serious crime in total disregard of all the values we have worked to uphold since the establishment of the United Nations system".

He said the ships were "hardly any threat to Israel" and called the deadly interdiction of the vessels in international waters "an act of barbarism" without justification.

Alejandro Wolff, the US ambassador to the UN, said that his government was "deeply concerned" but emphasised that it remained unclear what had happened. The flotilla mounted by the activists was "neither effective nor responsible", he said.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that his government "deeply deplores the loss of life" and called on Israel to explain itself.

"Israel now bears a responsibility to provide a full account of what occurred and what efforts were made to minimise the loss of life," he said. "But the events cannot be seen in isolation. They show clearer than ever that Israel's restrictive access to Gaza must be lifted."

Israel's deputy ambassador Manuel Carmon said that the flotilla "was anything but a genuine humanitarian mission".

He accused the activists of seeking to provoke Israel, citing their refusal of an Israeli offer to deliver the supplies by land. "I would like to stress there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," Carmon said.