UN calls for Gaza ship raid inquiry

The United Nations Security Council is calling for an impartial and transparent investigation of Israel's commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. ((Chip East/Reuters))

The United Nations Security Council is calling for an impartial and transparent investigation of Israel's commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip

In a statement, the Security Council condemned the acts that resulted in the loss of civilian lives and expressed deep regret at the loss of life and injuries sustained during the naval raid.

At least nine people were killed after Israeli troops stormed a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships early Monday in international waters. Israel says its soldiers were defending themselves, but a number of countries have condemned the raid.

After an emergency meeting and marathon negotiations, the 15 council members agreed early Tuesday on a presidential statement that was weaker than that initially demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey.

A copy of the UN statement says the council is calling for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

A cautious White House said Tuesday that it supports the resolution calling for an investigation into the raid.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the predawn raid on international waters, which left at least nine people dead, does nothing to change the "trusted relationship" between the U.S. and Israel.

"We are greatly supportive of their security," Gibbs told reporters Tuesday. "That's not going to change."

Gibbs said the U.S. backs the Security Council's call for "a credible investigation, including international participation."

The Security Council also said in the statement that the situation in Gaza is "not sustainable" and called for a "sustained and regular flow of goods and people" to Gaza.

Egypt announced Tuesday that it would temporarily open a blockaded border crossing with Gaza to allow aid to pass, prompting several thousand people to rush to the only crossing point not fully controlled by Israel, The Associated Press reported.

Turkey condemns raids

The raids prompted condemnation from a number of countries — including Turkey and China — and several countries have called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza.

Turkey's prime minister is calling Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel that killed nine people a "bloody massacre," and warns that no one should test Turkey's patience.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that "this bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse."

He said the Israeli action was an attack "on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace."

Erdogan called on Israel to immediately end its "inhumane" blockade of Gaza.

Turkey, usually an Israeli ally, said Monday it was recalling its ambassador for consultations and calling off military exercises with Israel.  

Passengers off ships

The statement also requested the immediate release of ships and civilians detained in Israel.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry, told CBC News there is nobody left on the ships and that passengers who identified themselves were taken to the airport, while the others were detained.

Palmor also said a number of questions — including who would carry out the investigation and how it would be handled — need to be answered before Israel can respond to the UN call for an inquiry.

He said there is no way for Israel to respond to a "proposition" or "advice" that has not taken the form of an official plan, noting that he believes Israel's investigation will "bring out all the facts," which would be shared with "friendly" countries.

The CBC's Margaret Evans said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Israel's security cabinet when he returns home Tuesday, having cut short his visit to North America. 

With files from The Associated Press