DUBAI: Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla set off a diplomatic furore, drawing criticism from allies and enemies alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which called off planned joint military exercises. Washington said it deeply regretted the loss of life and was examining the circumstances that led to Monday's killing of 10...
DUBAI: Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla set off a diplomatic furore, drawing criticism from allies and enemies alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which called off planned joint military exercises.
Washington said it deeply regretted the loss of life and was examining the circumstances that led to Monday's killing of 10 of the mostly international activists aboard the six-ship convoy as it tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.
The head of the Arab League said Arab states should reconsider their ties with the Jewish state while Turkey, Israel's strongest Muslim friend in the region, summoned Israel's ambassador and said it would recall its own.
“Israel's attack indicates Israel is not ready for peace. Israel attacked the liberty fleet because it feels it is above the law,” Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said in Doha.
“There is no benefit in dealing with Israel in this manner and we must re-assess our dealing with Israel,” he said.
Israeli commandos intercepted the flotilla carrying 700 people and 10,000 tonnes of supplies for Gaza before dawn on Monday. Officials said they were met with knives when they boarded the ships, including a ferry flying the Turkish flag.
Turkey, which had supported the convoy, cancelled three planned joint military exercises with Israel, and Ankara said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would cut short an official visit to Latin America to return home.
“Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour,” Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Television images from Ankara, whose ties with Israel had already soured somewhat since last year following Turkish criticism of Israel, showed dozens of people gathered outside Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy's residence in Turkey's capital.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the killings as a massacre and the United Nations and European Union both demanded an inquiry. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the violence could not be justified.
“I am profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the Peace Flotilla for Gaza,” Kouchner said in a statement.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation.”
IRAN CALLS ATTACK INHUMAN
Iran, one of Israel's biggest foes, said the killings were “inhuman” and would help lead to the Jewish state's demise.
“All these acts indicate the end of the heinous and fake regime and will bring it closer to the end of its existence,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told state broadcaster IRIB. Iran is under international pressure over its nuclear programme.
In the Arab world, analysts said the incident was such an overreaction to an attempt to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade that it could put the brakes on any further efforts at normalisation and may derail the peace process.
Israel has previously halted such activist ships, although some others have reached the Gaza Strip before.
“For the Arab world, any hope of a peace process with this government is going to evaporate. If they are going to react to this simple issue of humanitarian supply this way, the message is very clear,” said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Centre.
Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, summoned the Israeli ambassador. The Israeli Academic Centre in Cairo, which aims to build bridges with Egyptians, cancelled this week's upcoming lectures.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said Israel's move was a “crazy step” that risked inflaming conflict in the region.
Israel says food, medicine and medical equipment are allowed in regularly to Gaza. It says an embargo is needed to stop weapons and materials that can be used to produce them from reaching Hamas Islamists.
The Arab League, which has endorsed indirect peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that started last month, called an emergency meeting for Tuesday to discuss the violence although analysts did not expect strong steps.
In Cairo, where the League is based, the violence also inflamed public opinion on the streets.
“What do you expect from a state that even America fears and cannot stop or do anything to except use empty diplomatic words?” said Mohamed Morsi, a 45-year-old restaurant owner. AGENCIES