Israel regrets loss of life but takes no responsibility: deputy FM

08:59, June 01, 2010      

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Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Monday that "we have lessons learned from this operation" and will make sure that if there are any other flotillas or armadas, Israel will strive to be non-violent.

REGRET BUT NOT RESPONSIBLE

In an exclusive interview, Ayalon, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister joined scores of Israeli officials who are trying to deflect international criticism and outrage over a botched naval commando raid Monday morning on a ship that left nine activists dead and dozens wounded.

The six-vessel convoy, aiming at focusing world attention on the plight of the Gazans, is carrying more than 10,000 tons of aid, stationery, medical supplies and construction materials as well as hundreds of self-proclaimed peace activists from over 40 countries.

"We regret, of course, this loss of life, but the responsibility lies squarely on it's organizers," Ayalon said, referring to the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH), and the pro- Palestine organization Free Gaza Movement.

Moreover, Ayalon insisted that "Every country, every democracy has the right of self-defense against a terror organization that occupies a territory like the Gaza Strip and uses it against Israel."

"It was very clear now that they were looking for the provocation with the real intent of violence," Ayalon said of the groups.

Israel claimed IHH is affiliated with Hamas and al-Qaida.

Ayalon repeated details of the clashes which he provided at the press conference Monday morning, and that was confirmed by the Israeli Army later.

Masked Israeli troops toting paintball rifles and small arms rappelled from helicopters at about 4:30 AM, landing on the deck of the Marmara Mavi, one of a flotilla of six, he said, adding that they were immediately surrounded by the ships' passengers who attacked them with knives, iron bars, slingshots and guns so they had to open fire at the "attackers".

The passengers on the other five ships did not offer resistance, and allowed their crafts to be brought to shore at Ashdod port.

The Israeli army said Monday evening that seven soldiers were wounded in the predawn melee, with two in critical condition. The army is investigating if the weapons were stolen from the soldiers ' own webbing, or were already brought on board.

Israel said the soldiers were in "mortal danger," and were justified for their reaction, but passengers claimed that the soldiers shot at sleeping people.

"It's a matter of, also, deception," Ayalon said of the passengers, some of whom were filmed singing anti-Jewish chants as they left port.

"Nobody in his right mind thought, that these - supposedly - peace activists, who have said to the public that they will only use passive resistance, would violently attack with the intention to kill and murder the IDF soldiers who were performing their mission in accordance with international maritime law," Ayalon said.

Ayalon also talked about the fallout of the violence on Israel' s world standing, relations with both Turkey and the US, and how to deal with such events in future.

"We should look into the, maybe, preparations of more flotillas like this," Ayalon said when asked what worried him the most about the outcome of the incident.

This flotilla was the fifth such group to try to break the Israeli blockade and bring aid to Gaza, and supporters said there will be more attempts.

"We have to be mindful of the Arab League using its automatic majority in the United Nations to once again, condemn the victims in Israel, and not the perpetrators - the terrorists," Ayalon said.

AL Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, has called for an emergency meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.

Turkey Monday recalled its ambassador to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, over the deepening diplomatic crisis. Israel did not plan a reciprocal gesture, according to Ayalon.

Ayalon said the clashes would not affect Israel's relationship with the United States: "this is a very strong relationship and actual alliance with the United States. We are best friends, allies and will continue on the basis of shared values and common interests and many, many other reasons."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his trip to Canada and a crucial meeting on Tuesday with American President Barack Obama, in order to fly back to Israel to deal with the results of the clash.

Netanyahu "reiterated his full backing for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)," who took part in the operation, a statement from his office said. The two leaders spoke by phone on Monday and decided to set a new meeting at a later date.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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