JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister has called off a planned visit to the White House to deal with a crisis over a botched naval raid that killed 10 pro-Palestinian activists.
Netanyahu, who is in Canada, was set to travel to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. But his office says he decided to return home early after Monday’s commando raid.
The commandos intercepted a flotilla of activists trying to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip. The deadly crackdown has drawn widespread international condemnations.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 10 passengers in a predawn raid that set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.
Israel said its commandos were attacked by knives, clubs and live fire from two pistols wrested from soldiers after they rappelled from a helicopter to board one of the vessels.
Dozens of activists and at least 10 Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody confrontation in international waters.
Reaction was swift and harsh, with a massive protest breaking out in Turkey, Israel’s longtime Muslim ally, which unofficially supported the mission. Ankara announced it would recall its ambassador and call off military exercises with the Jewish state.
The bloody showdown came at a sensitive time in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet Tuesday with President Barack Obama to discuss the next round in U.S.-led indirect negotiations. From Toronto, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with top Israeli officials and expressed his “full backing” for the military, according to a statement from the army.
The White House said in a written statement that the United States “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries and was working to understand the circumstances surrounding this “tragedy.”
The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission meant to draw attention to the blockade, which Israel and Egypt imposed after the militant Hamas group seized the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians in 2007.
There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday, with activists claiming the Israelis fired first and Israel insisting its forces fired in self defense. Communications to the ships were cut off shortly after the raid began…
[continues at AP]