Israel's arch-foe, as a terrorist

JERUSALEM: The Israeli navy boarded another Gaza-bound aid ship on Saturday
after Washington condemned as "unsustainable" a blockade which Israel enforced
earlier this week by killing nine people on a Turkish vessel.

The Israeli navy, whose action on Monday triggered an international outcry, took
control of the Rachel Corrie without incident, the Israeli military said.

The boat had ignored Israeli orders to divert to Israel's Ashdod port where Israel
had offered to unload the cargo and deliver it to Gaza after inspecting it.

"According to initial reports, there was no violence or injuries amongst the soldiers or
the crew, as the use of force was unnecessary and no shots were fired," the Israeli military
said in a statement.

Carrying Irish and other activists, the ship was the latest to attempt to break the
four-year old blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza with the stated aim of stopping its Hamas
rulers from strengthening their arsenal to fight the Jewish state.

"This has been another brazen act of Israeli piracy on the High Seas," said Kevin Squires,
national coordinator of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Dublin, one of whose
members was aboard the boat named after a pro-Palestinian activist killed in Gaza in 2003.

Autopsy results found 30 bullets in the bodies of the activists killed this week, a British
newspaper reported.

They were all Turks, including one with US citizenship.

Ankara's already strained ties with Israel, once an ally, are at an all-time low.

In the clearest sign yet that this week's bloodshed might lead to a modification of the
blockade, the United States said the embargo was "unsustainable and must be changed".

Israel stops cement and other materials it says could be used by Hamas for military purposes
from entering the territory controlled by the group since 2007. It also stops other goods with
no obvious military application.


Friends and foes alike have heaped criticism on Israel this week over the blockade.
Israel's main ally, the United States, has expressed more sympathy than most for its
security concerns but has also spoken of the need for Palestinians in Gaza to receive
adequate supplies.

"We are working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other international
partners to develop new procedures for delivering more goods and assistance to Gaza," a
spokesman for the White House National Security Council said.

"The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all
parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary
confrontations," he added in a statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay increased the pressure on Israel,
saying the embargo, which has blighted the lives of the 1.5 million people, was illegal
and should be lifted.

"International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of
warfare and ... it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on civilians,
" she said.

Already buffeted by a series of diplomatic storms over the last year,
analysts expect Israel to at least modify the blockade. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is considering some form of international role in enforcing an arms embargo, while letting
in civilian goods, Israeli officials have said.


Israel has also faced calls for an international probe into incident. Israeli officials
have proposed a foreign role in an Israeli inquiry.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday that autopsy results on the nine dead
Turkish activists from Monday's raid showed they had been shot a total of 30 times, many
at close range. Five were killed by gunshots to the head, it said.

Turkish-American activist Fulkan Dogan was shot five times from less
than 45 cm (18 inches) away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the
leg and once in the back ,the paper said.

In addition to those killed, 48 others received gunshot wounds
and six activists were still missing.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, his popularity on the rise in the Arab world,
harangued Israel on Friday about ignoring the Biblical commandment

"Thou shalt not kill".

"I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says
'thou shalt not kill'. Did you not understand?" Erdogan said in a televised
speech to party supporters.

"I'll say again. I say in English 'you shall not kill'.
Did you still not understand?. So I'll say to you in your own language.

I say in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzakh'."

TURKEY'S Prime Minister says he doesn't view radical
Palestinian group Hamas, Israel's arch-foe, as a terrorist organisation.

"Hamas are resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land.
They have won an election," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday in a speech
broadcast live on television.

"I have told this to US officials... I do not accept Hamas as a terrorist
organisation. I think the same today. They are defending their land."

The United States and the European Union blacklist Hamas as a terrorist
group despite its victory in Palestinian elections in 2006.

Mr Erdogan made the remarks in an angry tirade against Israel after Monday's raid
on a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of nine Turks
and plunged already strained ties between the once-close allies into deep crisis.

TURKISH Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was
considering sailing to the Gaza Strip as part of an aid flotilla
backed by the Turkish Navy.

Lebanese newspaper al Mustaqbal quoted security sources as saying that
Mr Erdogan was pondering the move in order to break the barrier imposed
against Gaza by Israel.

It said that "as part of the open conflict between Turkey and Israel
following the massacre against the 'freedom sail' to Gaza and the protest
sparked in the world, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is considering
going to Gaza himself in order to break the blockade imposed on the Strip."

The sources said Erdogan raised the option in discussions with associates.

The report added that the Turkish leader also told the U.S. that he planned
to ask his navy to escort another aid flotilla - but officials in Washington
asked him to delay the plan in order to look into the matter.

According to news reports, Israel is pressuring the government of Ireland to order the ship "Rachel Corrie," which is carrying humanitarian aid to theGaza Strip, to change course and dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod--or face the same fate as the freedom flotilla.

In an attempt to justify its actions to the international community, the Israeli army on Thursday released footage showing that it was the flotilla activists that had started assaulting Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, thousands of citizens celebrated the safe return of 527 Turkish activists from Israel, while angry protests continued to be staged all over the country.

The New York Times reported that Turkey's role as guardian of the rights of Palestinians has denigrated Arab countries and thrown Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia--the biggest allies of the West--on the defensive.

The Guardian, for its part, reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarakwas torn between siding with the Arabs and safeguarding his country's interests with neighboring Israel.

In a related development, Arab diplomats called for activating Arab Leagueresolutions and urging the UN Security Council to indict Israel for its recent actions.

nIn Cairo, 50 activists and public figures on Thursday

submitted a note to the attorney-general requesting the
arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak
on war crimes charges for their involvement in the freedom flotilla massacr.


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