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PNA slams UN report over Gaza flotilla, Israel accepts with reservations

(Xinhua)

14:38, September 04, 2011

RAMALLAH/GAZA, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinians Saturday slammed a United Nations (UN)-led report on the Israeli naval attack against a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in late May last year, while Israel accepted the report with reservations.

Ghassan al-Khatib, spokesman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government in the West Bank, told Xinhua that what was published in the media "is reprehensible and unacceptable by the Palestinians, mainly the part related to the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip."

"The blockade violates international law," al-Khatib said, adding that "the Palestinian authority is waiting for receiving the full report officially, but still the PNA expresses its disapproval towards parts of the report published in the international media."

He stressed that any international stance "should defend the fact that the blockade that Israel is imposing on the Gaza Strip is illegal, reprehensible, unacceptable and contradicts with international law. The report might encourage Israel to go on with its aggressive assaults on the enclave."

The New York Times earlier published parts of the UN report, which said that Israel used excessive force against the Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31. However, it claimed at the same time the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip "doesn't contradict with international law."

The report called on Israel "to make a proper declaration to express regret for attacking the flotilla and compensate eight Turkish families, whose children were killed by the Israeli naval forces in the attack, as well as dozens of wounded people."

The Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, also condemned the report depending on what the New York Times has published. Mohamed Awad, Hamas' minister of foreign affairs, told Xinhua the government considers the report "non-objective."

"The published parts of the report represent a justification to imposing an unfair and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip as the entire world considered it illegal and called for lifting it immediately," said Awad, adding that "all the justifications to keep the blockade should be rejected."

On May 31, six ships carrying humanitarian aid and dozens of activists sailed to the Gaza Strip to defy an Israeli blockade imposed on the coastal enclave in June 2007. Nine Turkish activists were killed and dozens wounded in the Israeli naval attack on the ships.

The attack was largely condemned by the international community. Israel relaxed the blockade under the international pressure and allowed in several kinds of products. Before easing the blockade, hundreds of kinds of food products were barred by Israel.

Meanwhile, several Gaza-based human rights organizations denounced the UN report. Al-Mizan and Sawaseya rights groups said in two separate statements that what was published showed that the report "is legalizing the Israeli siege and that is a clear violation of human rights."

"Such a report affirms that the international community is sharing the Israeli occupation and is a real partner of Israel in keeping the siege imposed on the Palestinian people," said Sawaseyah, adding "apparently the United States and Europe agree with Israel on imposing the siege."

Al-Mizan called on the international community as well as all the world's human rights organizations "to erase the part of the report that legalize the blockade," adding that "what the report included contradicts with the international community's stance that considers the siege illegal."

Gaza-based Palestinian non-governmental organizations also said in a press statement that the UN report "contradicts with international law as well as the UN Human Rights Council fact- finding report."

For its part, Israel announced late Friday it accepts the UN report in accordance to what has been published, but with reservations," according to Israel Radio. The Israeli government had said in a statement that it expresses sorrow for the loss of life during the process of seizing the flotilla.

Israel, which imposed the blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, refused to officially apologize for the raid, insisting that its soldiers were carrying out self-defense activities against members of a Turkish "terrorist" group on board the ships.

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