International Response to Gaza Boats Clash
Greece, Turkey and Spain, all of which had citizens on the Gaza-bound flotilla that clashed with the IDF Monday morning, have summoned Israel's ambassadors in their countries for explanations of the incident. Turkey even announced that it was recalling its own ambassador from Israel, the second time in a year it has taken this move. Greek officials demanded immediate information regarding the health of Greek citizens aboard the boats.
Greece has also canceled an air force drill that was to be conducted alongside the Israel Air Force.
IDF sources say at least 10 activists were killed in the clashes, which began when passengers on the flotilla attacked soldiers with knives, clubs and guns as they attempted to board. Dozens of passengers were wounded, as were several soldiers. One soldier is in critical condition with gunshot wounds.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke to Turkey's Defense Minister and to the Turkish ambassador to Israel. The flotilla was organized by a Turkish group, and many of those aboard were Turkish citizens.
The European Union has called for an inquiry into the incident. Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for foreign policy, “expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded," EU diplomats said.
Ashton also demanded the immediate opening of Gaza crossings following the event.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon faced reporters Monday and defended the closure on Gaza. The closure was, and remains, a response to Hamas attacks, and a vital component in Israel's self defense against terrorism, he said.
Ayalon called on all countries which had citizens aboard the Gaza flotilla to do their best to maintain calm despite the violent clash.
Israel may face angry responses from within as well. The IDF and police geared up for the possibility of violent riots as reports circulated that Islamic Movement head Sheikh Raed Salah had been wounded, reports that the IDF denied. However, police feared Israel could face Arab riots even if Salah is healthy.