Israel’s Raid on Gaza Flotilla Roils Uneasy Alliance With Turkey
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GWEN IFILL: Israel continued today to defend itself against charges it mishandled a commando mission off the coast of Gaza. The incident also led to the easing of Gaza’s isolation, at least for the moment.
Massive street rallies continued for a second straight day, as governments around the world condemned Israel’s deadly raid on the flotilla of ships headed toward its naval blockade around Gaza.
YEHIA AL KAZAZ, protester (through translator): We want to send a powerful message to the Arab regimes and the Israeli alliance, the United States and to Israel, that our support for the Palestinian resistance will not stop, even if we die for it.
GWEN IFILL: In Turkey, police scuffled with protesters outside the Israeli Embassy. Half of the 679 activists on board the ships were Turkish. And that country unofficially supported the aid convoy.
Of the nine activists killed in the early-morning raid, at least four were Turkish nationals. Prime Minister Erdogan addressed Turkey’s Parliament today in Ankara.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish prime minister (through translator): This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse.
This attack was obviously an attack on the international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace. It is not possible for an aggressive state that has openly conducted a massacre to face the international community without an expression of regret and answering for its deeds.
GWEN IFILL: Turkey has been one of Israel’s few Muslim-majority allies. The raid has tested their alliance.
Margaret Warner sat down today in Washington with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
MARGARET WARNER: How serious is this breach?
AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Turkish Foreign Minister: It is very serious. It is very serious, because, as I said, according to the law, this ship, in international sea, belongs to the country of flag.
It’s a — it’s a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty. It is an attack against Turkish citizens. We had difficult relations with Soviet Union during Cold War, but they didn’t attack our citizens. Throughout — in the last 87 years of Turkish republican history, first time a state is attacking against our citizens. We cannot tolerate this.
MARGARET WARNER: But is this breach, do you think, irreparable? I mean, is this a crisis in an otherwise fairly strong relationship, though it’s had some problems in the past year, or something worse?
AHMET DAVUTOGLU: It depends on Israeli action.
GWEN IFILL: In Jerusalem today, Israel’s deputy foreign minister said the dispute between the two nations is not a final break.
DANIEL AYALON, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister: We have tried and pleaded with everybody, including the Turkish government, to try and stop this provocation.
However, I think still the importance of the relations between Turkey and Israel will necessitate a continuation of good and strong ties for the benefit of the entire region.
GWEN IFILL: But officials from the two nations have fundamentally different interpretations of what happened on board the flotilla’s lead ship during the pre-dawn raid. Dozens made their way home today, including this Turkish woman and her young son.
NILUFER CETIN, Flotilla passenger (through translator): I was hiding in a room with my child. The gunshots were landing down right on top of the ceiling. We witnessed it all, gas bombs, sound bombs. I was just afraid for my child. I hope he is young enough to forget everything that has happened. But if a trip was organized in the future, I will not hesitate to take part in it with my child.
GWEN IFILL: Overnight, the United Nations Security Council called for an impartial investigation, and condemned the raid.
CLAUDE HELLER, Mexican ambassador to the United Nations: We believe that an impartial investigation has to deal with all the issues that are involved in this incident, all of the acts of violence that have created this — this deadly incident.
GWEN IFILL: The final statement was less forceful than many had urged. Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s observer at the U.N., was one of them.
RIYAD MANSOUR, permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations: I think that you can assume that Palestine and Lebanon and Turkey would have liked to see a stronger text. An attempt for a stronger test — text was tried, but we all know that the Security Council is composed of 15 members, and an agreement was reached, in spite of all these different interpretations, to the text that you have before you.
GWEN IFILL: This afternoon, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gabriela Shalev told the “NewsHour” the investigation should look at actions on both sides.
GABRIELA SHALEV, Israeli ambassador to United Nations: And, as you know, at the U.N., every word counts. And I think it was drafted this way because they have to look. And it calls for looking into all the acts and the events that led to really the — the very bad situation that evolved on the ship.
So, it’s not only from the moment that our soldiers tried to intercept the ship, but before that, all the acts that led to what happened on the — on the ship. The Turks can interpret it in any way that they want. But I think they were very disappointed, because they wanted something much stronger in a resolution or a statement condemning Israel. And this is not the final outcome.
GWEN IFILL: U.S. officials have taken pains to walk a diplomatic fine line. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that, although the blockade is unsustainable, Israel should be able to take part in the investigation into Sunday’s high seas standoff.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. secretary of state: We support, in the strongest terms, the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.
We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation. The situation, from our perspective, is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned.
GWEN IFILL: At the site of the conflict, Israel carried out an air strike today in the Gaza Strip. Israel said there were no casualties. An Islamic militant group said that three of its members were killed. In a separate incident two militants were killed infiltrating Israel from Gaza. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in place since 2007, when the Hamas movement came to power.
Israeli leaders say the blockade is needed to cut off the flow of weapons to Hamas and that the activists aboard the flotilla were essentially a front group. But the activists argued the embargo has only impoverished Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.
Today, Egypt opened at least one checkpoint that had been blocked off, and a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would consider ways to ease, rather than end, the blockade. Another ship now off the coast of Italy is heading toward Gaza and, presumably, another offshore confrontation later this week.
Late today, President Obama spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in a phone call. A White House statement said Mr. Obama expressed condolences for the loss of life, and he promised U.S. support for a credible investigation of the Israeli raid.