UNITED NATIONS: Israel found itself isolated on the global stage Tuesday as world leaders demanded a swift and honest investigation into its deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla.
A day after the pre-dawn assault in international waters which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead, nations across the world condemned the Jewish state for what Turkey’s prime minister branded "a bloody massacre."
In New York, an emergency session of the UN Security Council condemned the Israeli attack against a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and called for an impartial investigation.
The emergency session lasting more than 12 hours pitted Turkey against the United States in calling for a strong condemnation of Israel, diplomats said.
"The Security Council took note of the statement of the UN Secretary General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards," the statement said.
The statement fell short of a call for an independent investigation, with the United States backing an Israeli investigation.
"We have every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial and transparent, prompt, investigation internally," Alejandro Wolff, the deputy permanent US representative, said.
It also demanded the immediate release of all six vessels and the hundreds of Palestinian supporters who were on board.
"The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately and to ensure the delivery of the humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination," the statement said.
Accounts of what happened conflicted. Israeli officials said the commandos acted in self defense after being attacked with clubs and knives, while activists charged that the commandos fired on sleeping civilian passengers.
Israel now says nine people were killed in the raid.
The council reiterated its grave concern over humanitarian situation in Gaza, which it said was "not sustainable."
It stressed the need for a "sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza."
Emphasizing that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a two state solution, the statement expressed concern that the incident occurred at a time when indirect talks were underway between the sides.
It urged the parties "to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region."
The closed negotiations on the statement followed a public debate in the council, during which Israel was vehemently attacked by Turkey, the country from which the flotilla departed. Many of those killed were Turkish nationals.
In individual statements made ahead of the emergency session, almost all 15 council members condemned the Israeli assault.
"It is clearer than ever that Israel’s restrictions on access to Gaza must be lifted in line with Security Council Resolution 1860. The current closure is unacceptable and counterproductive," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
France, Russia and China — also veto-wielding permanent council members — also called for the blockade to be lifted and for an independent inquiry.
The United States, Israel’s traditional ally which often uses its veto to shield the Jewish state — did not request specifically that Israel end its blockade. But it hinted that the measure at least should be eased.
Wolff said Washington was "deeply disturbed by recent violence and regrets tragic loss of life and injuries. We are working to ascertain the facts."
Israel’s UN envoy Daniel Carmon insisted that the flotilla was not on an aid mission.
"What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?" Carmon said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told delegates that Israel had "lost all legitimacy" through the raid. "It is murder committed by a state. It has no justification whatsoever," he said.
Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip was responsible for the deadly raid on a foreign aid flotilla and should be lifted, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told AFP Tuesday in an interview.
"Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened," the UN chief said.
At least nine activists were killed on Monday when Israeli navy commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, sparking international outrage and plunging the Jewish state into a diplomatic crisis.
"It would have been avoided without such tragedy, therefore I again urge Israeli authorities to lift this blockade," Ban said on the sidelines of a conference in Uganda on the International Criminal Court.
Ban said he had reiterated his request Tuesday in a phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on a mission to deliver some
The UN Human Rights Council Tuesday called an emergency session during which Muslim nations will press for an international probe into Israel’s deadly interception of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.