U.S. “deeply regrets” deaths in Israeli attack on Gaza aid convoy

FreedomFlotilla

Israel military forces attacked ships bearing humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, May 30. Known as the Freedom Flotilla, some 700 people from 50 different countries, sailed on six ships May 28 from Cyprus, determined to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

One of the organizations involved, Free Gaza, reports, "Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck."

The number of dead is not clear. Israeli officials reported 16 dead, while The New York Times reported 10 dead and Al Jazeera, which had a reporter on board, reports 19 dead and dozens injured.

Free Gaza says, "Streaming video shows the Israeli soldiers shooting at civilians, and our last SPOT beacon said, 'HELP, we are being contacted by the Israelis.'

"We know nothing about the other five boats. Israel says they are taking over the boats."

Although a report on their website says two of their boats were flagged and registered under the United States, making them U.S. property,  it appears all the ships asea are Turkish.

Reports say the attack happened in international waters, "in direct violation of international law."

Among the activists on board the ships were Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland.

In a carefully worded statement, the United States said it deeply regretted the loss of life and would look into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy," White House spokesman William Burton said in Chicago, where President Obama was finishing a long holiday weekend, as well as dealing with the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

The statement reflects the difficult relationship the Obama administration has had with Israel's far-right Netanyahu government. The Israeli prime minister was supposed to meet with Obama on Tuesday, June 1, but called the meeting off after the flotilla attack.

Other international reaction has been strong and swift. Turkey, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassador's in their respective countries to protest against the deadly assault.

According to a U.S. State Department official the Turkish foreign minister is calling a UN Security Council meeting at 1 p.m. Eastern time today. The official expected a fuller statement from UN Ambassador Susan Rice after the meeting.

Israel, claiming self-defense from the rockets launched from Gaza, clamped down on the territory three years ago, and, along with Egypt, controls all commerce and travel in-and-out of the region.

The blockade has been condemned internationally and seen as a violation of international law. The Freedom Flotilla is the most ambitious attempt to date to break the blockade, reports The New York Times.

Photo: Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the Freedom Flotilla. (CC)

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  • The Obama administration statement, I imagine, is little different than one that would have come out of the Bush administration. I mean, who doesn't "regret" the loss of life? It's weasel words, like when politicians say "I regret if anyone was offended."

    The problem was not "loss of life" in the abstract, but rather the criminal actions of the state of Israel.

    The people of Palestine do not need "calm" or inertia. Their freedom requires seizing the moment to challenge the Israeli criminal actions. Send more ships. Engage forthrightly and aggressively while the initiative is in hand.

    Posted by David_D, 06/02/2010 2:41am (5 years ago)

  • CPUSA Denounces Israeli Attack on Unarmed Humanitarian Convoy
    The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) denounces the cowardly and illegal attack by Israeli commandos on a flotilla of six ships bearing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, who have been suffering under a multi-year Israeli blockade.

    Though the Israeli government claims they were attacked first, eyewitness accounts contradict this. At least nine and perhaps many more of the unarmed civilian volunteers, from several countries, were killed in the unprovoked attack, which took place in international waters on ships flying the Turkish and U.S. flags.

    The CPUSA joins with nations, parties, organizations and people of goodwill everywhere in denouncing the attack and demanding an end to the inhumane blockade of Gaza, which has caused incalculable suffering to innocent men, women and children.

    Further, the CPUSA congratulates the brave individuals, who include a Holocaust survivor, an Irish Nobel laureate and several retired U.S. civil and military officials as well as citizens of as many as 50 nations, who put their own lives on the line by accompanying the humanitarian flotilla.

    The CPUSA expresses our sympathy and solidarity with the families of the people who were killed in the illegal Israeli action.

    The CPUSA further demands:

    An accounting by the Israeli government for this violation of international law, with punishment for those who ordered and perpetrated it, no matter how high their position.
    The release of all persons detained in the illegal action, and authorization for the humanitarian aid to continue in safety to its destination in Gaza.
    An end to the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza.
    An end to the expansion of Israeli settlements in areas designated for a future Palestinian state, and to the "apartheid wall".
    An end to the oppression of the Palestinian people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
    Firm action by the Obama administration to pressure the Israeli regime to engage in honest negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. The Obama administration has the leverage to do this and should use it forcefully
    The CPUSA urges its members and friends to initiate and join public protests against the Israeli action, and to contact the White House, the State Department and their congressional representatives to demand that our government condemn the attack on the aid ships and pressure the Israeli government to end the blockade of Gaza immediately.

    Posted by A friend, 06/01/2010 9:47pm (5 years ago)

  • I do not relish the hypocrisy of those who claim that Israel is an agressor when it acts to protect its borders and citizens who live under constant terrorist threats. Israel has a right to exist and an obligation to protect itself from terrorist agression.

    Posted by James, 06/01/2010 1:48pm (5 years ago)

  • I'm a bit surprised at the mildness of this article. If so many European governments could strongly express outrage, why can't we?

    Posted by Hank Millstein, 05/31/2010 11:51pm (5 years ago)

  • As we memorialize the dead,the Israeli government memorializes the deadly with brutal deaths in wars not against the tyrannical,but war against the defenseless,women and children,and peace-makers.
    Mishaps and errors,anomalies and missteps,are sometimes facts of life,but brutal,wanton policies of death and terrorism combined with machinations with brutal regimes like our own U.S. government and its policies in Afghanistan,its recent past policies in Iraq,its treatment of known war criminals,its nuclear bombings in Japan,along with its apocryphal,incessant nuclear tests,its condoning the unholy historical alliance with Israel and South Africa,its policies of nuclear,hair trigger encirclement and an incomparably insane share of the world's nuclear armaments are unpardonable.
    The right wing Israeli government,seems to have taken much from its past right wing counterparts in the U.S.,
    this very objective article from sister Teresa Albano is outstanding,for those who did not notice,"deeply regrets" is a quote from a White House statement.
    The brutal,clandestine,Nazi worship of the Nixon,Reagan and Bush administrations come to mind,so shameless and unconscionable.
    Maybe this right wing Israeli government is testing how much it can bully the world,in the wake of a world move to quell its nuclear bullying in the Mid-East,immediately after the effort to bring a renewed nuclear disarmament into being.
    We must support this renewed effort and demand that Israeli atrocities against peoples,from Turkey to Gaza and on the high seas,cease.
    Moreover,we must demand our government in the U.S.pull all stops to check Israeli militarism before it precipitates an unthinkable World War III.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/31/2010 10:18pm (5 years ago)

  • This is an outrage. Thank you for reporting it in a level-headed way.

    Posted by Maeve Mulligan, 05/31/2010 10:14pm (5 years ago)

  • The U.S. deeply regrets, shouldn't have been the title of the article.

    Posted by Sean Mulligan, 05/31/2010 9:23pm (5 years ago)

  • The Obama administration's tepid "regrets" for unprovoked murder is unconscionable. Tepid regrets for Israel's massacre of Gaza as Obama took office. Tepid regrets for NATO's killing of Afghans.

    At a CT demonstration today condemning Israel's attack on humanitarians, one speaker pointed out that in 1956 Dwight Eisenhower made a phone call and Israel scurried back from its imperial venture with the Brits and French to take over the Suez Canal. Obama needs to make that phone call.

    For Israel, like its master the United States of America, continual violations of human rights and human life are just "collateral damage" in the effort to protect imperial goals.

    Sadly, the peace movement has grown to expect no more than "regrets" from the Obama administration. Like Israel's government, the current U.S. government is self destructive. Such consequences are dire. We must summon up the anger. We must mobilize the people.

    Posted by Chester Steorra, 05/31/2010 5:59pm (5 years ago)

  • Israel needs to stop with this anti-humanity policy it appears to have adopted recently. Travesties like this will not stop until we, the people, do something about it. Somehow, we need to convince large governments to stop supporting this increasingly terrorist-like nation.

    Posted by Andrew, 05/31/2010 4:29pm (5 years ago)

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