CNN Report on Israeli Attack of Aid Convoy to the Gaza Strip

(CNN) -- Israeli commandos killed at least 10 people in pre-dawn raids on a flotilla of six ships carrying aid for the Palestinian territory of Gaza early Monday, the country's military said.
"During the incident the soldier's lives were in danger," said a statement from the Israel Defense Forces. "They were attacked with severe physical violence, including live fire, bold weapons, knives and clubs."
At least four Israeli soldiers were wounded, the military said.
The boats left European ports in a consolidated protest organized by two pro-Palestinian groups to deliver tons of food and other aid to Gaza to break a blockade imposed by Israel in 2007 after militant group Hamas seized control of the territory.
The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups sponsoring the convoy, disputed Israel's claim of violence by people aboard the ships.
"At about 4:30 am, Israeli commandos dropped from helicopter onto deck of Turkish ship, immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians," a post on the group's Twitter page said.
Video aired on CNN sister network CNN Turk showed what appeared to be soldiers abseiling onto the deck of a ship.
"Israel has once again shown that it completely ignores human life and peaceful initiatives.
--Turkish Foreign Ministry
The Turkish foreign ministry quickly condemned the Israeli military operation and summoned the Israeli ambassador for an explanation.
"Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians," the statement said.
"We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel. This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations."
The United Nations said Monday it was shocked at the loss of lives and urged Israel to refrain from further steps that could endanger civilian lives. "We are shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on board boats carrying supplies for Gaza, apparently in international waters," said a joint statement from Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency.
A spokeswoman for Sweden's Foreign Ministry confirmed to CNN that the ministry has called in Israel's ambassador for a meeting. According to CNN's affiliate TV4, there are 11 Swedes among the activists traveling aboard the ships.
For its part, the Israeli military defended its actions against the flotilla.
"We did not attack any boat, we merely fulfilled the Israeli government's decision to prevent anyone from going into the Gaza strip without coordinating with Israel," a statement from the military said. "The flotilla is a provocation made to de-legitimize Israel. Had they really wanted to deliver the cargo into Gaza they could have done so via Israel as it is done on a daily basis."
The ships of the flotilla are being taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, the military said.
Meanwhile, a protest that began outside the Israeli embassy in Istanbul on Sunday continued into Monday. Although largely peaceful, police did use water cannons at one point to keep demonstrators a bay.
In Israel, police said they had stepped up security across the country, while in the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories
The convoy of boats approached Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade and had been shadowed by three Israeli warships. Free Gaza had reported Sunday that they had been contacted by the Israeli navy.
The maritime convoys are being organized by both the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish-based IHH, a humanitarian relief foundation affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood religious group.
Israel said Sunday that Western and Turkish authorities have accused IHH of having "working relations" with different terrorist organizations.
Contacted by CNN, the IDF reiterated the Israeli government's offer for the flotilla to dock at Israel's Ashdod port, where supplies would be unloaded and transferred to Gaza.
The IDF said the Gaza shoreline is not specifically deemed a "closed military area," but it is closed to maritime traffic. The Israeli government has decided to prevent all ships from reaching the Gaza shore to prevent any attempts to bring in ammunition or missiles that could potentially harm Israeli citizens, the IDF said.
About 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid flows into Gaza per week, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said. He questioned whether the flotilla is really interested in helping people in Gaza, or just wants to "make a political point, which is difficult to understand."
CNN's Ben Wedeman in Cairo, Egypt, and Ivan Watson in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to this report.


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