A diplomatic storm has erupted in the Middle East overnight, after the Israeli navy boarded a Turkish ship trying to break the Gaza blockade.
At least nine people have died in the clashes — Israel government claims 10, Israeli television claims 19 — with Israel commandos claiming they were defending themselves after they were attacked by the ship’s passengers.
In a statement released overnight, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu defended the Israeli operation, saying troops were attacked when they landed on the largest of the six ships in the flotilla.
“They were mobbed. They were clubbed, they were beaten, stabbed,” he said.
However the organisers of the flotilla have denied any threatening behaviour, claiming that the convoy was a peaceful operation aimed at providing aid to the ravaged region.
“I don’t know anything about the knives and axes or anything, said Audrey Bomse, Free Gaza Movement’s legal coordinator.
“There is absolutely no evidence of live fire. You see this live streaming on the Turkish ship, you see the Israeli helicopters shooting. There’s no evidence of fire passing them.”
The big Australian angle — which of course all Australian media jumped on board with — is that Fairfax journo Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty were on board one of the flotilla boats. After setting the Aussie journo twitsphere abuzz yesterday afternoon with worry, it’s understood they have both been taken into an Israeli detention centre. McGeogh’s final reports can be seen here. Also, an unidentified Australian man was shot in the leg.
The BBC and Al-Jazeera are live-blogging the aftermath of the attack. Twitter was quick to react, although there was concern that the #flotilla hashtag was being censored, since it started to trend, then disappeared due to a glitch. The Guardian explains the Twitter hashtag freakout.
The international media is providing extensive of coverage of the incident. Turkey is infuriated. How will the clash impact on Israel’s diplomatic ties?
Cynthia Johnston: Israel flotilla action criticized by friends and foes
Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which called off planned joint military exercises.
Edith M. Lederer: Arabs demand independent probe of Israeli raid
The Palestinians and Arabs, backed by a number of council members, also called for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, immediately release the ships and humanitarian activists, and allow them to deliver their goods.
Karin Laub and Matthew Lee: Analysis: High-seas raid deepens Israeli isolation
And while Israel had hoped to defend its tight blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza with Monday’s high-seas raid, it instead appeared to be hastening the embargo’s demise, judging by initial international condemnation.
Shlomo Shamir: UN Security Council members urge Israel to lift Gaza siege
Members of the United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, in an emergency session to discuss the deadly Israel Navy raid on a convoy of international activists sailing to the coastal territory.
New York Times
The situation is difficult for the United States, which has close relations with both countries [Israel and Turkey] and is now in the awkward position of crafting a reaction that avoids alienating either side.
The Times (UK)
The shockwaves from the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara passenger ferry were still reverberating around the world last night, as Israel scrambled to defend its battered reputation.
The worldwide condemnation of the deadly Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla will complicate the Obama administration’s efforts to improve its tense relations with Jerusalem and likely will distract from the push to sanction Iran over its nuclear program.
Joe Klein: The Israeli Attack
First reaction: This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government… And it will further isolate Israel from the rest of the world.