Israeli navy clashes with Gaza-bound aid flotilla activists (2)

09:04, June 01, 2010      

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An injured person is evacuated to Rambam hospital in the northern city of Haifa, Israel, May 31, 2010. Clash happened on Monday morning between an international Gaza aid flotilla and Israeli navy, causing at least 19 casualties, Israeli military confirmed. (Xinhua)

The flotilla was docked at the Ashdod port at this moment, while most of passengers have been cleared from the vessels. Israeli prisons authority spokesman Yaron Zamir said on Monday midnight about 100 activists have been arrested.

During the clash, seven soldiers were wounded, said Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), claiming that they were attacked by the activists onboard with live fire and light weaponry, "additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier."

This is strongly rejected by the Gaza aid activists. "There was no fire from our side," they said in a twitter message, one of the channels it employed to bring attention to the campaign.

"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. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep." The human rights organization Free Gaza Movement onboard described in an E-mail.

Following the incident, Israeli officials made a lot of efforts to explain the highsea raid. They asserted that Israeli naval personnel had to return fire to defend themselves in the face of the so-called "premeditated" event.

The troops "apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. The violent activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers," Israeli military officials said in a statement released Monday noon.

"The activists stabbed the Israeli soldiers who came basically armed with paint-ball rifles, and they(the soldiers) were told to use their weapons only in last resort," Israeli Vice Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Xinhua during an exclusive interview this afternoon.

To deal with the crisis, Netanyahu has decided to cut short his trip to Canada and the United States, including a crucial meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

As original agenda, Netanyahu will visit Washington on Tuesday. Obama is expected to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israeli-U.S. relations during his meeting with Netanyahu in the White House.

Considering the security condition after the event, Israeli military and police departments have strengthened security, including closing checkpoints along the border with Gaza and blocking the roads towards the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and other controversial areas.

It is largely unknown at the present time how the deadly showdown between the Jewish state and pro-Palestinian campaigners would affect the meeting between the two leaders as well as the peace process.

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