05/31/2010, 00.00
TURKEY - ISRAEL

Israel attacks ship carrying aid to Gaza. At least 10 dead

The Israeli commandos used helicopters and patrol boats to attack the ships. There were also two deaths among the IDF soldiers. Israel temporarily censors the news. Vessels carrying cement, wheelchairs, water purifiers and prefabricated houses to contest the blockade on the Strip. Thousands of Turks demonstrateoutside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 10 people were killed this morning in an Israeli navy attack on a fleet of Turkish ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Some sources speak of 10-15 killed and over 60 injured.  Tel Aviv Army Radio reported the incident, saying that two Israeli commandos were killed, but has placed a temporary censorship on information.

Israeli radio said that the IDF soldiers, boarded the ship from helicopters and patrol boats, meeting resistance, Al Jazeera sources on the main ship, the Mavi Marmara, argue that the soldiers began shooting as soon as they set foot on ship.

The Turkish ships set sail from Cyprus, carrying 10 000 tonnes of aid to Gaza to contrast the blockade that Israel imposes on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. According to activists, the ships are full of concrete for building, prefabricated houses, water purifiers and electric wheelchairs.

The fleet of aid was prepared by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish organization for Human Rights. According to some sources, it is the ninth time that pro-Palestinian groups have sought to force the Israeli blockade. Turkey had asked the Israeli government to allow the safe passage of ships, but Israel had threatened to stop any contravention of the blockade, which has lasted since 2007, when Hamas took power in Gaza.

The United Nations has continuously called on Israel to remove its blockade to avoid a humanitarian crisis. But Tel Aviv denies that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, allowing timetabled entry of food, medicine and kerosene. According to Israel, the blockade is necessary to prevent the entry of weapons and missiles to the Gaza Strip.

As soon as the news of the attack spread, thousands of Turks gathered in protest outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. Turkey also protested officially to the Ambassador in Tel Aviv. Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza described the Israeli military action as "barbaric."

Some Turkish agencies report that there hundreds of pro-Palestinian activist on the seized ships, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Northern Ireland), some MEPs and an elderly Holocaust survivor.

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