Senior Israeli officials defend operation against Gaza aid flotilla

09:11, June 01, 2010      

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Senior Israeli officials have lined up to air support for the army soon after its clash on Monday morning with a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla, which claimed 19 lives.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fully backed Israeli army's action, Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Monday. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has decided to cut short his trip to Canada and the United States, including a crucial meeting with the U.S. President Barack Obama, to deal with the crisis.

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.

After the clash between Israeli soldiers and peace activities on board, Israeli officials had made a lot of efforts to explain the army's action. They asserted that Israeli naval forces 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 the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 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 the last resort," Israeli Vice Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Xinhua during an exclusive interview this afternoon.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman echoed with the opinions that the violence this morning was preplanned.

Liberman explained to his counterparts from several countries about the bloodshed. During his conversations with the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs Baroness Catherine Ashton, and with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Lieberman said the passengers of the aid vessels are not "freedom fighters," but "terrorist supporters" who fired at IDF soldiers as soon as the latter boarded the ships.

He added that all Israeli attempts to enter a dialogue and reach an understanding with the organizers at an earlier stage were rejected by them.

Hours after the conflict, a number of Israeli government and military officials were available to comment and explain the details of the confrontation. Dozens of statements have been released over the day, while several high-level press conferences and interviews with local and international media have been arranged.

The Monday showdown between the two sides resulted in several deaths and numerous injured, IDF spokesman's office said in a statement this evening.

The army insisted that they were attacked by the activists on board, which is strongly rejected by the latter.

Israeli navy on Sunday night sighted the pro-Palestinian " Freedom Flotilla" bound for the Gaza Strip and ordered the convoy to dock at Ashdod harbor, unveiling the showdown between Israel and peace activists. Troops aboard the aid flotilla and clashed with the activists after they ignored Israeli orders to turn back.

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

Source: Xinhua


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