Security Council calls for inquiry into disputed Israel action against Gaza aid ships

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] Tuesday called for [statement text] a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" into a weekend raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza strip in which 10 civilians on a Turkish ship were killed. Reaffirming two earlier resolutions calling for a two-state solution [Resolution 1850 text] and unimpeded humanitarian assistance [Resolution 1860 text], the Council urged Israel to allow other nations to retrieve their wounded and deceased and to ensure delivery of the aid materials aboard the ships. During the meeting, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu [official profile] said that Israel had committed a "grave breach of international law" by attacking a civilian vessel with inappropriate and disproportionate force, and had violated international maritime law by boarding a vessel without the consent of the captain or the flag state. Davutoglu said suspected illegal acts by a ship's crew did not justify the violation of international customary norms. Claims that the military action was a violation of international law were also made by representatives from Russia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Mexico [official websites]. Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative Daniel Carmon [official profile] defended the action, saying that a maritime blockade is a legitimate measure during armed conflict, and that the blockade of Gaza was necessary to prevent the smuggling of arms into Palestinian territory. Carmon insisted the activists aboard the ships were "not peace activists" or "messengers of goodwill," but rather were using the promise of humanitarian aid as a cover for blockade-running. Carmon noted that the raid came after repeated warnings [press release] from the Israeli government about the existence of the blockade, the convoy's attempts to bypass the UN and other international aid agencies, and the refusal of offers to transfer the aid materials to Israeli ships for distribution.The Security Council's statement comes a day after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profiles] both condemned [statement text] the Israeli action and called for an independent inquiry [press release]. The Turkish ship on which the violence occurred [ABC report] was one of six organized [Guardian backgrounder] by the Free Gaza Movement [advocacy website] to carry protesters and humanitarian supplies to the isolated Palestinian enclave.

The Gaza naval blockade began in 2007 [Montreal Gazette backgrounder] after Hamas [CFR backgrounder], designated as a terrorist organization [text] by the US State Department, was elected [JURIST report] as the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. In January 2008, then-UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned the blockade [JURIST report], saying that it was collective punishment.

 

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