Israel Attacks Aid Convoy, Part V

The first two parts of this growing series on the Israeli attack on the aid convoy heading to Gaza try to sort through the mess of reports to find some facts;  part 3 contains some updates from around the world; part 4looks at some of the reactions in the global press; and part 5 looks at official reactions from around the world, including the subdued American statement and the Israeli justification.  Part 6 reviews the statements made by various peace organizations while part 7 reviews yet more reaction from the press.  Part 8 compares the video footage released by Israel and the Flotilla organizers.

[tweetmeme] Criticism of Israel’s actions continue to pour in from around the world.  The Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah condemned Israel and interestingly linked the reactions of the world community to effectiveness of the current international institutions, saying: “International institutions have been put before a historic test to prove their already shaky credibility.” While Hezbollah also called for all states to break diplomatic ties with Israel, Lebanese PM Saad Hariri called the IDF actions ‘crazy and dangerous’ and called upon world leaders to ‘stop this violation of human rights.’

The United Nations Security Council and the Arab League both had emergency meetings to discuss the events, but no official statements have been made by either.  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, however, did say: “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.”  Similarly, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said:

We need to establish exactly what happened. However, nothing can justify the appalling outcome of this operation, which reportedly took place in international waters. I unequivocally condemn what appears to be disproportionate use of force, resulting in the killing and wounding of so many people attempting to bring much-needed aid to the people of Gaza, who have now been enduring a blockade for more than three years.

As for the American reaction, it was pretty muted.  Though, after more information comes to light, I am sure that the White House will comment further.  White House spokesman Bill Burton said that the US ” deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained” and that Administration officials “currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.” The White House press release included the following:

The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.

As for Israel, the reactions are, well, interesting.  PM Netanyahu said that he regretted the loss of life, though he did back the actions of the IDF commandos.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the Flotilla a violent provocation and blamed the organizers of the Flotilla for the violence, calling them ‘violent supporters of terror.’  IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that the IDF commandos were forced “by violent activists to respond with live fire.”  Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said earlier in the day that the Flotilla had connections to both Hamas and Al Qaeda.  YNet is reporting the incident as though the commandos were in danger for their lives, but as Andrew Sullivan points out, that is unlikely considering the facts.  Avi Trengo at YNet, though, is calling for Barak’s resignation over what he calls the miserable handling of the situation.

Importantly, most players are generally waiting until the facts can be separated from the rumors.  Predictably, the US had the most reserved response, but the US, the EU (and most countries within) and the UN all declared that the incident was terrible, they regretted the deaths, were suspicious of the circumstances and were waiting to get a better picture before making their remarks.  Presumably, these countries and organizations will say more about the events in the next few days.  Hopefully, the entire event will not be swept under the rug – as the Black Iris predicts.

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