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World News

U.N. Security Council meets on Gaza flotilla

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, with most members of the 15-nation body calling for a full investigation.

Following a 90-minute open meeting, the council went into closed-door consultations. Diplomats said envoys were negotiating the text of a proposed statement by the council.

Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday. The incident, in which the Israeli military said at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparked widespread condemnation.

Many council members echoed earlier statements by their governments in denouncing or criticizing the Israeli action, and said it was time for Israel’s three-year-old blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza to be fully lifted.

“This is tantamount to banditry and piracy,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the council. “It is murder conducted by a state.” Most of those who died in the incident were Turks, according to one senior Israeli officer.

The United States, Israel’s principal ally on the council, spoke in guarded terms. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said Washington deeply regretted the loss of life and wanted a “credible and transparent investigation” by Israel.

But he criticized the attempt by the flotilla organizers to attempt to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza. “Direct delivery (of aid) by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible and certainly not effective under the circumstances,” he said.

REQUEST OF TURKEY

Israel’s Deputy Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the council the flotilla was “anything but” a humanitarian mission. Its organizers “cynically used the guise of humanitarian aid to send a message of hate and to implement violence,” he said.

The organizers, some of whom he said were linked to terrorist organizations, had forced Israel to launch its operation, which had been intended as “a preventive measure to counter illegal breakage of the blockade,” Carmon said.

The council session was convened at the request of Turkey and Lebanon, both of which are rotating non-permanent members of the council.

The permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, told reporters ahead of the meeting that he hoped for swift action by the council.

“We hope at the end the day that the Security Council will have a decisive outcome, a reaction (that will) bring Israel to account ... to condemn this action,” he said, adding that Israel must “lift the siege against our people in Gaza.”

Mansour represents the Palestinian Authority, which has no control over the Gaza Strip, as it is de facto governed by the militant group Hamas.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been criticized by U.N. officials for causing what they call a humanitarian crisis. But Carmon said, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Editing by Eric Beech

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