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UN Security Council condemns deaths aboard Gaza aid ships, calls for probe

The Security Council's statement asks for an impartial investigation into an Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships that resulted in at least nine deaths. Meanwhile, over 400 passengers are being detained in Israel.

UN Security Council raises hands to vote, 2009 file photo

The Security Council met in emergency session Monday

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the loss of civilian life resulting from an Israeli commando raid on a flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The presidential statement agreed upon on Tuesday also asks Israel to immediately release the ships and 480 of their passengers being held for questioning, and for an impartial and independent inquiry into the incident.

Composed during ten hours of closed-door negotiations, the Security Council statement reflects a compromise between Turkish, Arab and Palestinian representatives, who had demanded a strong condemnation of Israel, and others on the council who wanted a more moderate statement.

The statement condemns "acts" which resulted in deaths and injuries without mentioning Israel. It also calls for "a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

At least nine of the activists were killed and dozens wounded when Israeli armed forces boarded six of the ships in international waters. Israel says the soldiers had to defend themselves from passengers who attacked them with iron rods and knives. The aid flotilla was co-sponsored by a Turkish organization, and most of those killed were Turkish nationals.

News of the raid was met with international condemnation of Israel, and led to anti-Israel demonstrations around the world.

Europeans among those detained for questioning

A Muslim student holds up a sign reading Boycott Israel at a Malaysia protest

Protests against the raid were held in cities across the world

Among the Europeans taken off the boats by the Israeli authorities was the Swedish writer, Henning Mankell.

There were also eleven German nationals on board. Six of them, including two members of the German Left Party, Annette Groth and Inge Hoeger, returned to Germany on Tuesday morning.

Israeli authorities said that all the detained activists were being questioned to determine whether they were eligible for prosecution.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry told Swedish radio on Tuesday that the Swedes would have to decide for themselves whether to allow themselves to be deported from Israel, or to stand trial in an Israeli court for charges related to the raid. Mankell has reportedly not yet made a decision on whether to stay or leave.

Six Greeks have already returned home, as have several Turks. The Turkish state news agency said Turkey is sending planes to Israel to bring back around 20 wounded citizens.

Aid convoy sails on?

Two of the convoy's eight ships were not boarded by the military and were expected to continue their trip to Gaza this week. Israel has vowed to prevent any ships from breaking the blockade, which it says is necessary to prevent weapons and bomb-making supplies from being smuggled into the Gaza strip and used against Israelis.

"We will not let any ships reach Gaza and supply what has become a terrorist base threatening the heart of Israel," said defense minister Matan Vilnai.

Opponents of the blockade say it has caused shortages of food, medical supplies and construction equipment.

svs/dpa/AFP/Reuters
Editor: Michael Lawton

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