ISRAEL FIRES ON GAZA AID FLOTILLA…. In a development that is as stunning as it is tragic, this actually happened this morning.
At least 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed and dozens were wounded aboard an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip when Israeli naval commandos seized control of the boats early Monday, the Israeli army said.
Some Israeli, Turkish and Arab media outlets put the death toll as high as 20 activists. The wounded were evacuated to Israeli hospitals and the ships were being led into Israel’s Ashdod port, where the passengers and aid supplies are to be unloaded and screened. More than four naval personnel were also injured. […]
Some in Israel, before the raid and after, questioned the wisdom of Israel trying to take the ships by force. Past flotillas either reached Gaza or were diverted to Israel peacefully.
There are, not surprisingly, competing versions of exactly what transpired, and Israeli officials not only defended the existing blockade policy, but said Israeli forces faced resistance on the ships. Every claim has a counter-claim, of course, and those condemning the violent raid this morning insist Israeli forces attacked peaceful civilians, including a flotilla carrying a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor.
Either way, as the AP noted, the pre-dawn violence has “set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.”
This much is clearly true. The ship was unofficially sponsored by Turkey, which has long been a key Israeli ally in the regional, and which recalled its ambassador to Israel this morning in the wake of the incident. The United Nations, among others, is demanding a detailed Israeli explanation.
The White House issued a written statement, noting that the United States “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries, and was gathering information to understand exactly what transpired in this “tragedy.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House tomorrow, but whether that meeting will still occur is unclear.
Update: I just learned that Netanyahu will tend to this crisis, and not travel to D.C. tomorrow.