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Israel flotilla attack: Egypt opens border with Gaza

3 June 2010

By Matthew Weaver via

Thousands of Palestinians cross border as Turkey calls for Israel to be punished for attack.

Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip today amid mounting criticism of Israel’s violent raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to break the three-year blockade of the enclave.

Thousands of Palestinians crossed the border at Rafah as Turkey called for Israel to be punished for the attack, which left at least nine people dead. Volatility in the area was further underlined by reports that five members of Islamic Jihad were killed in Gaza in two separate attacks.

The Israeli army confirmed its aircraft had shot at militants in Gaza, killing three, after they had fired rockets into southern Israel, and that two gunmen were killed after breaching Israel’s border fence.

Earlier, putting aside his hostility to Hamas, which has links to his political opponent, the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, ordered that the crossing be opened until further notice. The move is being seen as a response to increasing Arab anger at what is perceived as Egyptian complicity in the blockade.

The border normally only opens once a month for a few days.

An Egyptian security source told Reuters: “Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter. The border will remain open for an unlimited time.”

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, said that if Israel had heeded calls to lift the blockade earlier, the raid on the flotilla would not have happened.

The Free Gaza Movement, one of the organisers of the aid flotilla, said more ships have been sent to Gaza. Israel has repeatedly warned that the ships will be blocked.

Turkey today revealed that four of the people killed in the attack were its nationals. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, described the Israeli action as a “bloody massacre” that deserved “every kind of curse”.

Speaking to the Turkish parliament he said: “This attack should definitely be punished.”

In a speech that was greeted by a standing ovation, Erdogan said: “No one should test Turkey’s patience. The foundation of peace in the Middle East is being rocked by the reckless attitude of Israel.” The flotilla was the ninth attempt by sea to breach the blockade Israel and Egypt imposed after the militant Hamas group violently seized the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“Israel in no way can legitimise this murder, it cannot wash its hands of this blood,” Erdogan said.

He added Turkey would continue to support the Palestinian people. “Turkey’s hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable,” he said.

Turkey sent three planes to bring back some 20 Turks wounded during the raid. The nationalities of the other people killed in the attack have not yet been released . The foreign office has confirmed that a British man, named as Ahsan Shamruk, is among the injured, according to Channel 4 news.

More accounts of what happened yesterday are also emerging.

Haneen Zuabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset who was on the Mavi Marmara ship, accused Israel of trying to “cause the largest number of fatalities”.

She told a press conference today: “What we saw was five bodies. There were only civilians and there were no weapons. There was a sense that I may not come out of it alive. Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation.”

Earlier the UN security council called for an impartial investigation into the raid, but it stopped short of an outright condemnation of the attack.

In a carefully worded compromise statement drafted after 10 hours of debate, the security council also called for the immediate release of hundreds of civilians held after the raid.

Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey wanted a much stronger criticism of Israel.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 4 June 2010 12:34pm

    UK citizens PLEASE write to William Hague to END the SIEGE on GAZA

    Also to do their DUTY & ensure safe passage for the Brit(s) on board the Rachel Corrie & other vessels.

    Our organisation is looking for volunteers to put up posters in their own (or nearby!) neighbourhoods: Demanding Gaza be Opened & Asking People to BOYCOTT ALL ISRAELI GOODS, till they end the illegal Occupation & fully implement the Inviolable Right Of Return to ALL Palestinians.

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