At about 4 am local time, Israeli military forces launched a raid on 6 vessels in international waters carrying 700 activists and 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies destined for the Gaza Strip. Israel claims nine activists were killed.
Among the activists on board the ship were Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a longtime activist for the rights of Palestinians, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday and members of Parliament from Germany, Belgium, Algeria and Israel, and the raid has met with near-universal opprobrium from the international community.
The Israeli government, which cut off all communications between the ships and the outside world after the raid began, claims that some activists on the lead ship, Mavi Marmara, started the violence, though initial reports that activists were armed with pointy objects, which caused the Israeli soldiers to open fire, have been replaced with Israeli reports that one of the activists successfully took a soldier's gun from him, after which the Israel government reported that the activists on that ship were armed with guns of their own. Conflicting reports place the number of activists killed between 9 and 19 and the number injured between 12 and 30; the Israeli military says they sustained 10 injuries in the raid. Activists not on board the ships deny that their colleagues would have been carrying weapons or fired upon Israeli soldiers.
The Obama Administration has, thus far, held off on any concrete judgment of Israel's action, saying they planned to gain clarity about the events from their Israel counterparts tomorrow.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. "regret[s] the loss of life and injuries sustained in this incident. We're working hard to determine what happened on board the ship." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Israeli foreign minister in Washington on Tuesday, he added, so "we'll have an opportunity to follow up directly tomorrow."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a meeting with President Obama scheduled for tomorrow in order to return to Israel to deal with the fallout from the raid, which includes the withdrawal of the Turkish ambassador to Israel. Turkey had helped set up the aid convoy.
At Least Nine Dead After Israel Intercepts Gaza Aid Convoy [Wall Street Journal]
Nineteen Activists Killed By Israeli Commandos Aboard Aid Convoy Bound For Gaza [Wikinews]
At Least 10 Are Killed as Israel Halts Flotilla With Gaza Aid [NY Times]