Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Deadly Gaza Flotilla Raid Sparks Diplomatic Crisis

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Deadly Gaza Flotilla Raid Sparks Diplomatic Crisis

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a visit to the White House in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid, in which Israeli forces killed at least 10 while preventing humanitarian ships from breaching Israel's blockade of Gaza.

An Israeli naval raid on a flotilla bent on breaking its blockade of the Gaza Strip with a cargo of humanitarian supplies is sparking an international diplomatic crisis for the Jewish state after at least 10 activists were killed and dozens wounded in clashes with soldiers.

The Gaza flotilla raid prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a visit to the White House, while Israeli diplomats were summoned to foreign ministries across Europe.

Turkey, a departure point for the flotilla, has recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv for consultations and called for the convening of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the incident.

Israel, meanwhile, is bracing for the negative fallout.

"It will have a huge impact," says Alon Liel, a former Israeli diplomat. Mr. Liel said the incident could undermine peace talks with the Palestinians and lead to a freeze in relations with Turkey. "It's a red light to the Israeli government that, if now you didn't understand, you are in the wrong direction.''

Israel on the defensive ...

Israel's right-wing government has been on the defensive on several fronts since taking office in early 2009.

It has been under pressure to from the US to reign in settlement expansion to promote fledgling peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nation's Goldstone panel has accused the Israeli army of carrying out war crimes against Gaza civilians in a three week offensive to snuff out Hamas rocket fire.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on world leaders to exercise restraint in their response to the incident.

"The entire flotilla is a political and media provocation by anti- Israeli activists," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a press conference in Tel Aviv. "They have absolutely nothing to do with humanitarian aid."

The Gaza blockade

Israeli officials said that when the flotilla ignored calls from its naval forces to respect its closure of Gaza's territorial waters, soldiers boarded the ships from helicopters and from navy sea craft. …

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