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2 Jun, 2010 02:16

Peace activists persist in reaching Gaza as anger over Israeli attack continues

Nine Turkish activists killed during the Israeli storming of a Gaza aid flotilla have been buried in Istanbul. Their bodies arrived toTurkey earlier Thursday today alonside hundreds of detainees deported by Tel Aviv.

The attack saw dozens international activists injured what prompted worldwide condemnation.

Leading the angry voices is the UN, which vowed to establish a fact-finding mission. Its Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also demanding that Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in return, accused critics of an “attack of international hypocrisy”, and said the blockade was necessary.

Rabbi Arik Asherman, the head of Rabbis for Human Rights, says he hopes this will be a wake up call to both the world body and Israelis to resolve the situation in Gaza…

“If Israel had not continued to insist on holding this blockade [of Gaza strip], there would never have been this flotilla,” Rabbi Asherman said. “It’s sad that it takes bloodshed for people to start focus on this.”

Onboard the ship that is enroute to Gaza there's a high-profile international delegation, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Michel Chossudovsky, the head of the Center for Research on Globalization, an independent Canadian think tank, is in touch with the ship and says there is a good chance there will be no violence this time.

“This ship there, in my understanding, is there to break the blockade. Whether they succeed depends very much on how the Israelis are going to react, but they are under considerable international pressure and I do not think that we are going to see a repeat of a commando raid in international waters. What is possible is that the ship will be stopped,” said Chossudovsky.

“It is a very important initiative because, first of all, the people on board are extremely diplomatic and have a very strong backing while going to Gaza territorial waters,” he said. “This will be something scrutinized internationally.”

Meanwhile, Israel is brainstorming possible responses to another standoff, with more aid due to come next week. It says it will continue to check ships approaching Gaza for weapons for Hamas. The country’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said, despite international criticism, Israel must stop arms flowing to the Palestinian territory, Associated Press reports.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists detained by Israel during the deadly raid on an aid flotilla destined for Gaza have been freed and will be deported from the country by the end of Wednesday.

The bloody raid claimed the lives of nine people, none of whom has been officially identified yet.

The first Turkish activists have arrived in Istanbul earlier.

“We saw the Israeli boats approaching the Mavi marmara ship. Then we heard gunshots. The captain called us and said: ‘Run away, Israeli soldiers opened fire, broke the windows and doors.’ While the captain was warning us, we heard gunshots and a big explosion. We tried to flee, but the soldiers captured us and they took us to the Ashdod port,” recalls Kutlu Tiryaki, a participant in the Freedom Flotilla.

Among the Turkish protestors is the youngest protestor of the freedom flotilla – a 1,5-year-old baby.

“I protected my baby with a gas mask and a life jacket during the attack,” says Nilufer Cetin, the mother of the baby.

Shocked by the deadly attack of a flotilla ship by Israeli commandos, the international community has called for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

A thorough investigation into the latest developments is necessary, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov said, emphasizing that the raid took place in international waters.

"We’ve repeatedly said the continued blockade is unacceptable. Unfortunately the international community only started paying attention to the intolerable conditions of life for the people of Gaza, once blood was spilled," Sergey Lavrov said.

On Tuesday Egypt eased the blockade of the Gaza Strip by opening the Rafah border checkpoint.

It is the only crossing which is not fully controlled by Israel. Egypt opens this checkpoint every month for a few days, however this time no date has been set for it to close again.

Christopher King, a blogger on international affairs in London and thinks that the current situation in Gaza is absolutely terrible.

“I am speaking, I think, for everybody who’s been following this, these deaths, this violence – its’ absolutely incredible… against an entirely peaceful flotilla,” King told RT. “I think we have to bear in mind what they are doing, too – they are trying to break an embargo against people who are actually being starved, the food is actually being rationed into Gaza, food itself.”

“Israel has become so used to violence, I think, that they don’t know any other response,” the blogger claimed. “And they’ve got away with it so far – they are giving excuses, the Unites States backs them up. Indeed, the United States has voted down the United Nations resolutions that they wanted to pass.”

Palestinian and Arab officials are putting pressure on Cairo to keep the checkpoint opened permanently.

Despite the latest developments, the United States has remained dogged in its determination to stand by its ally in the face of total world condemnation and its unlikely to change its stance, says Dr. Said Shehata, a specialist in Middle East Politics and International Relations from the London Metropolitan University. “Israel is the strongest ally for the US and I can hardly imagine any pressure coming. Maybe in corridors, but not in public,” he explained.

Political journalist Israel Shamir claims that the very idea of a siege in the modern world is unprecedented.

“You can’t find anything similar in the modern political scene that all of a sudden a country takes a city, takes 1.5 million people, locks them up and says ‘Well, that’s it. You don’t get in, you don’t get out and you [will be taught a] lesson,’” Shamir told RT. “So the flotilla was actually a very ‘Don Quixotic’ step in idea of breaking through the blockade.”

“I hope that it [lifting the blockade by Israel] will happen and more pressure will succeed to generate upon Israel,” he said.

“Middle East peace process is dead for so many years,” Shamir proceeded. “We had a prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is in a limbo, not alive, neither dead for many years. Something similar is going on with the peace process – it’s a non-existent thing. And it’s a really good time to start to find some new solution, new ways out because going out and speaking about some peace process leads nowhere and everybody is totally tired of it.”

There is indeed no hope for peace in the Middle East, says historian and author Tariq Ali.

“As long as Israel occupies Palestinian lands, as long as the Israelis keep Gaza under siege, as long as they do not retreat back to the ‘67 frontiers, there is not going to be any peace. The two-state solution is dead,” the historian says. “So you either have a single-state solution or the Israelis move back to the ‘67 frontiers and they are prepared for neither. So this dreadful situation where the Palestinians are being victimized for decades now is going to carry on.”