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Statement by the Press Secretary on Israel's investigation into the flotilla incident

Today, the Government of Israel took an important step forward in proposing an independent public commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent tragic events on board the flotilla headed for Gaza. Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.

We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.

While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.

To see the statements on the official White House website, click here.

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American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Fatcs Sheet

To view a facts sheet that was put together by the American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise on the Gaza flotilla incident, click here.

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IDF appointments internal team of experts to examine the flotilla operation

The IDF announces the appointment of an internal team of experts that is to examine the flotilla operation. To view the official IDF spokesman announcement, click here.

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Anti-Defamation League flotilla page

The Anti-Defamation League has put together a resources and facts page on the Gaza flotilla incident.  To view, click here.

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Flotilla Passengers Fire Live Ammunition at IDF Soldiers

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President Obama Discusses Flotilla Incident with Larry King on CNN

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House Majoriy Leader Steny Hoyer on Flotilla Incident

WASHINGTON — Israel has "rightfully" invoked its right to self-defense to justify a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, and should not face UN condemnation, a top US lawmaker said Wednesday.

"The loss of life was tragic," but "the administration and Congress are determined to prevent condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council," Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.

Israel -- facing a global uproar over its pre-dawn raid which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead -- has blamed those aboard the ships, including the main vessel, the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, for initiating the violence.

Hoyer, a staunch backer of Washington's main Middle East ally, said he was waiting for "all the facts to emerge" about the Monday raid, but seemed to side with Israel's account.

"Israel -- rightfully so -- invoked its right to self-defense on the Mavi Marmara. While the majority of ships in the flotilla -- five out of six -- reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation," he said.

Hoyer said the flotilla had set a collision course with Israel, ignoring "two week's worth of repeated warnings" that they would not be allowed access to Gaza, and Israeli offers to distribute legitimate aid to Gaza's people.

"Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let's be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit," an Israeli soldier held by the militant group since 2006, he said.

"In times of increased tension such as now, it is imperative that we not allow these events to distract from our main goals of achieving peace in the region and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons," said Hoyer.

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Vice President Biden discusses the Flotilla Incident with Charlie Rose

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Video of Flotilla Passengers Fire Live Ammunition at IDF Soldiers

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Video of Weapons Found on the Mavi Marmara

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AIPAC Memo

Flotilla Sought Provocation, Not to Provide Assistance
The primary aim of the Gaza flotilla was not to provide humanitarian relief; it was to cause a provocation with Israel. Its top organizers and some of its participants are radicals with ties to terrorist groups that sought a violent confrontation. In contrast, the Israeli navy had worked hard to plan a peaceful interception of the six ships and its personnel only used force when their lives were at risk. Israel has legitimate self-defense reasons to inspect the cargo going into the Hamas-controlled area, where the U.S.-designated terrorist group has smuggled in thousands of munitions and rockets for use in attacks against Israeli civilians.

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Statement by Chairman Kerry On The Gaza Flotilla Raid

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement todayafter receiving word that at least 10 people had died during an Israeli raid of a flotilla of ships attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza:

“I am saddened by the tragic loss of life in the waters off Gaza.  At this point, it is unclear what happened and there must be a thorough investigation.  This unfortunate incident underscores the necessity of resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."

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Ros-Lehtinen Supports Israel’s Right of Self-Defense: Decries UN’s Focus on Condemning Israel Instead of Stopping Iran Threat

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented today on yesterday’s defensive naval operation by Israel. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Israel has the right and the duty to defend itself and its citizens, including by seeking to inspect ships run by Islamist extremist groups. These extremists, suspected of financing jihadist groups, were seeking to enter Hamas-controlled Gaza despite repeated requests from the Israeli government not to do so.

“Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Islamist militant groups have repeatedly used innocent civilians as human shields. They hide rockets and other weapons in homes, hospitals, and schools. With this in mind and given that the group running the ‘flotilla’ has ties to jihadist groups, Israel was compelled to search the cargo and passengers as a vital security measure.

“Israeli soldiers had every right to defend their lives against a lynch mob attacking them with knives and clubs.

“It is deeply troubling that the UN’s knee-jerk reaction was to immediately condemn and isolate Israel, particularly while still refusing to take concrete steps to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon.

“The U.S. must stand with Israel against this diplomatic lynch mob and the threats posed to its security, and very existence, by Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and Syria.”

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Security Council Condemns Acts Resulting in Civilian Deaths during Israeli Operation against Gaza-Bound Aid Convoy

31 May 2010
Security Council
SC/9940

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6325th & 6326th Meetings (PM & Night)


Security Council Condemns Acts Resulting in Civilian Deaths during Israeli Operation

against Gaza-Bound Aid Convoy, Calls for Investigation, in Presidential Statement

Also Briefed by United Nations Political Official, Who Says Bloodshed Would

Have Been Avoided if Israel Had Lifted Unacceptable, Counterproductive Blockade

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the Security Council expressed deep regret at the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation early on Monday in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza, and condemned those acts which had killed at least 10 civilians and wounded many more.

Twelve hours after convening an emergency session on Monday in response to the Israeli “operation” on the Gaza-bound maritime convoy, the Council issued the statement, read out by Claude Heller of Mexico, whose delegation leads the Council in June (Lebanon was the Council President until midnight, 31 May), requesting the immediate release of the ships, as well as the civilians held by Israel.

The Council urged Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.

It took note of the statement of United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

Stressing that the situation in Gaza was not sustainable, the Council re‑emphasized the importance of the full implementation of resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009).  In that context, it reiterated its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stressed the need for the sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza, as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout the enclave.  The Council also expressed support for the proximity talks.

At an earlier meeting Monday afternoon, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council on the incident, reporting that Israeli naval forces had boarded a six-ship convoy, which had been heading towards Gaza.  The stated purpose of the convoy was to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, he said, making clear the United Nations has “no independent information on what transpired”.

He said that in the lead-up to today’s events, the Israeli authorities had conveyed their intention, both publicly and through diplomatic channels, not to allow the convoy to reach Gaza.  The Israeli authorities had stated that if the convoy proceeded, contrary to those warnings, they would divert it to an Israeli port, inspect the cargo, facilitate the entry of only those goods that were allowed into Gaza in accordance with Israel’s blockade, and deport those on-board.

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Remarks by Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, Deputy Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at an Emergency Session of the Security Council

Alejandro Wolff
Deputy  Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
May 31, 2010



AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President and thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco.

The United States is deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident last night aboard the Gaza-bound ships.  We are working to ascertain the facts.  We expect a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urge the Israeli government to investigate the incident fully.

As I stated in the Chamber in December 2008, when we were confronted by a similar situation, mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by member states and groups that want to do so.  These non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances. 

The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and the deterioration of the situation there, including the humanitarian and human rights situation.  We continue to believe the situation is unsustainable and is not in the interests of any of those concerned.  We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs.  Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and the work of nongovernmental organizations complicates efforts in Gaza.  Its continued arms smuggling and commitment to terrorism undermines security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike.  

We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international NGOs and the UN, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction materials, through the border crossings, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. 

Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region.  The only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous, and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  We call again on our international partners – both inside and outside this Council – to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the entire region.     

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Statements by Israeli President Simon Peres on the flotilla incident:

"Hamas has decided to prevent peace between the Palestinians and Israel," said Peres.

"After Israel evacuated Gaza, Hamas turned it into a firing range against Israel and fired more than a thousand rockets at the Israeli civilian population. Hamas is constantly acquiring weapons and missiles via the sea and the tunnels. Hamas knows very well that it can choose the path of the Palestinian Authority and bring stability and blessings upon its people, but instead it has chosen the path of terror.

"Israel is a democratic country with an obligation to defend its citizens and cannot condone the arrival of Gaza-destined goods and ships without inspecting them. The violent and provocative flotilla was backed by Hamas, whose support was that of terror and opposition to peace.”

"The vicious actions of the ship's passengers towards the commandos forced them to defend themselves. Responsibility for the grave outcome lies wholly and solely with the organizers of the flotilla, whose real purpose was to create a provocation and not to deliver humanitarian aid. I regret the needless loss of life and urge both sides to exercise control."

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Flotilla Incident

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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Gaza flotilla and the maritime blockade of Gaza - Legal background

Gaza flotilla1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been  smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.

3. A  blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states. 

4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.

5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla.  Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.

6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above. 

7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area.  That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.

8. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade. 

9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.

10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were  relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel's intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.

11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.

12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.

Click here for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website.

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Jewish Federations: Gaza Flotilla Incident Resources

by Jewish Federations of North America

Situation Summary:
Early on the morning of May 31, Israel Defense Forces naval forces intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.

During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.

Click Here to view the JFNA Resource Page with many more materials.

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