Confrontation Between Israel Gaza Bound Flotilla Turns Deadly

05.31.10 | FL News Team

(Jerusalem)  --  Troops are on high alert in Israel today following a deadly high-seas confrontation between the Israeli Navy and pro-Palestinian activists.  The pre-dawn conflict began when naval forces intercepted six ships that were trying to defy Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Israel claims its commandos opened fire after they were attacked as they tried to seize the Gaza-bound flotilla.  In a statement, Israel said more than ten of the demonstrators were killed and many others were injured, though conflicting media reports put the death toll as high as 16.  At least five Israeli soldiers were also wounded.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said the activists were allies of anti-Israel groups like Hamas and al Qaeda, and said they would have opened a weapons-smuggling route into Gaza if they hadn't been stopped by Israel's military.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Ottawa at the time of the incident, is reportedly considering returning to Israel to deal with the fallout.  That would mean skipping a Tuesday meeting with President Obama in Washington, DC.

The flotilla set out for Gaza from Cyprus on Sunday despite warnings from the Israeli government that it would be intercepted.  The Free Gaza Movement says it was carrying ten-thousand tons of relief supplies and around 700 people from a number of countries, including Turkey, Britain, Canada, Greece and the U.S.  Three German parliamentarians, two Palestinian politicians and Swedish author Henning Mankell were also on board.  At least one of the vessels was flying the Turkish flag.  The nationalities of the dead and wounded have yet to be released.