20 dead as Israel storms aid ships

Attack on Gaza-bound flotilla triggers international outrage, diplomatic crisis

20 dead as Israel storms aid ships

Israeli medics carry an injured soldier on a stretcher towards the sea so he can pray, after he arrived by army helicopter to the Rambam hospital in the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Monday. APIsrael said its forces faced resistance from the activists as navy seals slithered from hovering helicopters to board the six-ship convoy, which had on board a Nobel Laureate, European lawmakers, authors, journalists and an elderly Holocaust survivor.

The Israeli army said that the troops returned fire after they were attacked with live rounds, knives, iron bars and clubs.

But Turkish charity ‘Free Gaza Movement’ whose ship bore the brunt of the Israeli attack said the soldiers started shooting as soon as they hit the deck and continued the fusillade even when white flag of surrender was raised.

At least 20 people were killed in the takeover of the Gaza aid convoy, al-Aqsa TV channel reported, adding that more than 50 people, including leader of the Palestinian Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah, were wounded in the attack.

Inhuman

The violent takeover of the convoy set off worldwide condemnation as Muslim leaders slammed the deadly raid as “criminal and inhuman”.

Hours after the violent seizures, thousands of people poured onto the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Amman and other Muslims capitals, chanting anti-Israel slogans. Ankara responded with fury recalling its ambassador in Tel Aviv and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of Tel Aviv, denounced what he described as “Israel’s use of excessive and unjustified force that led to the loss of innocent lives.”

UN chief Ban ki-Moon as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also decried Jewish state for use of force against civilians. The Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece were summoned for meetings, whereas France called for an investigation into the incident.

The Turkish ship ‘Mavi Marmara’ which was leading the convoy called ‘Gaza Freedom flotilla’ bore the brunt of the Israeli fury and most of those killed were on board the ill-fated Islamic charity ship, unofficially sponsored by Turkey.

Reports said a Greek ship ‘Stentoni’ was also boarded by the commandos. Later, most of these ships were escorted by Israeli naval boats to their bases. Reports also said that a number of injured had been taken to hospitals by helicopters.

The Israelis imposed a censorship on the coverage and only limited footage of the incident was broadcast which showed a number of people injured with bandages.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed Israel Defence Forces on their operation against the aid ships sailing with relief material to the Gaza Strip.

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