Israeli commandos gun down 19 peace activists in raid on Gaza ships with 28 Britons on board

  • Soldiers fire on civilians after being attacked as they boarded ships
  • Foreign Secretary William Hague 'deplores loss of life'
  • Turkey recalls its ambassador and warns of 'consequences for Israel'
  • Nobel Laureate, Wallander author and foreign MPs on board
The Foreign Secretary today 'deplored' the loss of life during the interception of a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza.
Up to 19 people were killed after Israeli commandos boarded ships carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid en route from Cyprus.
Palestinian rights group Friends of Al-Aqsa said that 28 British citizens were assisting in the breaking of the blockade, including its chairman Ismail Patel.
William Hague said the British embassy was in 'urgent contact' with the Israeli government, asking for more information.
He said: 'I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza flotilla. Our embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli government.
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This video image from a Turkish aid group claims to show Israeli soldiers on board a military vessel in international waters off the Israeli coast, surrounding a Turkish ship

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An Israeli commando aims a gun on the deck of a Turkish ship, part of an aid flotilla heading to Gaza
'We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.
'We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.
'It would be important to establish the facts about this incident and especially whether enough was done to prevent death and injuries.
'This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza in line with UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1860.'
Mr Hague continued: 'The closure (of access to Gaza) is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.
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Henning Mankell
Sheik Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was reportedly wounded after Israeli commandos stormed six ships off Gaza. Swedish crime author Henning Mankell was also aboard the flotilla

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Israeli medics rush an injured man for treatment at the Rambam hospital in the northern Israeli port of Haifa

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Israeli soldiers in Tel Aviv attend to a colleague injured after commandos stormed the flotilla heading to Gaza
'I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.'
Mr Hague's criticism of the killings comes after several groups condemned the action taken by the Israelis.
Fears are growing for two members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), who travelled from Bristol to join the flotilla.
Sakir Yildirim, from Fishponds and Cliff Hanley, from Southville, had been raising funds for the project and were on the boats.
Nothing has been heard of them since the violence early this morning, spokesman Ed Hill revealed.
The pair flew to Turkey earlier last week and boarded the passenger ship Mavi Marmara.

Both have visited Gaza before. Mr Yildirim, originally from the Blacksea area of Turkey, drove an ambulance to the region in February last year.
Artist Mr Hanley, Secretary of the PSC in Bristol, has visited Gaza once before, in January of this year, as part of the Viva Palestina Convoy.
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One of the activist's vessels decked out in flags of Turkey and Palestine as it set sail on May 22 from Turkey towards Gaza

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A Greek ship prepares to sail from Piraeus to become one of the six ships that were planning to take aid to Gaza

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Flashpoint: The incident took place 80 miles off the coast of Gaza in international waters
While the convoy was still anchored at Cyprus on Sunday, Mr Yildirim said: 'In the past Israel has been ruthless and unlawful with boats heading for Gaza; they've threatened to fire on them, rammed or boarded them, and imprisoned everyone on board. So obviously everyone is a bit tense right now.But what's different this time is it's a really big project.

'Plus it's backed by the Turkish Government right up the Prime Minister and other Governments around the world. And we have right on our side of course! So I'm sure we'll get there safely.

He added: 'I've been lucky enough to have been to Gaza twice before. The injustice is appalling, but their steadfastness is a lesson for us all. The people there are amazing. And the welcome they give visitors is fantastic.

Mr Hanley said: 'I'd sooner be over here doing something practical to help Palestine instead of sitting at home and writing futile letters to my MP.'

Among those travelling on the flotilla of six were eight Irish citizens.
Michael Martin, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, said: 'The reports of up to 15 people killed and 50 injured, if confirmed, would constitute a totally unacceptable response by the Israeli military to what was a humanitarian mission attempting to deliver much needed supplies to the people of Gaza.'
Palestinian rights group Friends of Al-Aqsa said there has been no communication from its colleagues since the 'inexcusable attack'.
The Stop The War Coalition (STWC) said the action 'should see Israel condemned under international law'.
A Palestinian activist clutches her face in Ramallah after she was shot by Israeli soldiers during a protest against the interception of aid ships sailing to Gaza

Palestinian colleagues place the woman on to the back of a truck after she was shot by Israeli soldiers
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A video image showing an injured passenger on a Turkish ship, part of the aid convoy

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Turkish and international activists speak to a television reporter shortly before Israeli warships attacked

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Israeli soldiers stand on the deck of a small boat from the Free Gaza Movement flotilla as it is brought into Ashdod port
The boats were taking aid to an Israeli blockade set up three years ago after Hamas militants seized power there.
Greta Berlin, spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, which co-ordinated the flotilla said: 'It's disgusting that they have come on board and attacked civilians. We are civilians.'
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch said: 'They planned this attack. Our soldiers were injured from these knives and sharp metal objects ... as well as from live fire.'
Two of the dead activists had fired at soldiers with pistols, the army claimed.
The Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, from the pro-Islamic aid group IHH, and Free Gaza's Challenger 1 are understood to have been boarded by Israeli Navy ships in international waters, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza.
Dr Fintan Lane, Fiachra O Luain and Shane Dillon, all from Ireland, were on Challenger 1 which had travelled from Cyprus in the first wave of the flotilla.
Protesters hold a banner that reads ''We support the fleet of freedom'' during a rally from the Israeli Consulate to Taksim square in Istanbul

Israeli patrol boats carrying commandos chasing a Turkish vessel carrying aid to the Gaza

Protesters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) said it has not been able to contact any of its members on the ships.
Dr David Landy, IPSC chairman, also accused Israel of breaching international law.
Dr Landy claimed: 'The fact that Israel would allow its forces to kill and wound international human rights activists shows the world once again that Israeli is a rogue state that acts with impunity.'
Internet footage has emerged showing pandemonium on board the Mavi Marmara, with activists in orange lifejackets running around as others tried to help a colleague lying on the deck.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said today: 'We have no doubt regarding the real intention of the flotilla. It's not about humanitarian aid.
'You can see clearly from the footage that when they boarded they were attacked with knives and sharp metal objects and left with not much option but to respond.
'There was no intention whatsoever to use any of the weapons soldiers naturally carry. As soon as the soldiers boarded they were attacked by knives and life-threatening objects.
'In the first few seconds the soldiers tried to protect themselves with their hands and avoid using the guns.'
The flotilla left the coast of Cyprus yesterday afternoon. Three Israeli navy missile boats are understood to have mobilised after dark to challenge it.
The boats were carrying building materials, crayons, chocolate for children, medical supplies including a CT scanner, a complete dental surgery, and paper for schools, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said.


Two murder suspects follow Hamas commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January this year
The incident poses a fresh challenge to Israeli diplomats who have scrambled over the past year to contain the fallout from other incidents, from evidence that Israel forged the passports of friendly states to accusations that it committed war crimes during a war in the Gaza Strip.
Here are some of the other diplomatic storms faced by Israel over the last year.

Britain and Australia have expelled Israeli diplomats after concluding that Israel forged British and Australian passports used by the assassins of a Hamas leader.
Israel has neither confirmed or denied a role in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas military commander who was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room in January.

Britain said such misuse of British passports was 'intolerable'. Australia said it was not the behaviour of 'a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship'.
Israeli plans for new Jewish settlement on occupied land in East Jerusalem triggered unusually harsh criticism from the United States in March when it damaged Washington's efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.
The announcement, made during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, temporarily set back U.S. efforts to bring about indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the project was an insult. Israeli PM Benajamin Netanyahu said he was blindsided by planning bureaucrats and apologised to Biden.

Israel has sought to rebuff the conclusions of a U.N. inquiry that found it guilty of committing war crimes during a 2008-2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip.
South African jurist Richard Goldstone's report found both Israel and the Hamas movement that controls Gaza guilty of war crimes, but focused more on Israel. Israel refused to co-operate with Goldstone and described his report as distorted and biased.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the three-week conflict, which Israel launched with the declared aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Thirteen Israelis were killed.

Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, has faced renewed calls to sign a global treaty barring the spread of atomic weapons.
Signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) last week called for a conference in 2012 to discuss banning weapons of mass destruction throughout the Middle East.

Last week's declaration was adopted by all 189 parties to the NPT, including the United States. It urged Israel to sign the NPT and put its nuclear facilities under U.N. safeguards.
Pictures of activists with sticks bludgeoning an Israeli soldier as he tried to land on a boat from a helicopter were shown by Turkish channel NTV.
Satellite news channel al-Jazeera reported from the lead Turkish ship saying Israeli forces fired and boarded, leaving its captain wounded.
Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire was on board the Irish ship MV Rachel Corrie which left in the second wave of the flotilla.
Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85, and several EU MPs are also believed to have been part of the flotilla.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the interception and said it was summoning the Israeli ambassador.
The Israeli army said four soldiers were wounded, including one hit by live fire.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Canada, said: 'We did not want to see confrontation.
'We made repeated offers to the boats that they come to the (Israeli) port of Ashdod unload the humanitarian cargo, and we guaranteed to pass all humanitarian items through the crossings to the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, they rejected our offers and chose the path of confrontation.'
The head of the Gaza Hamas government, Ismail Haniyeh called the attack 'brutal'.
Israeli forces were on high alert on the Gaza, Syrian and Lebanese borders as well as around Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Arab-populated areas of northern Israel.
At the White House, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still planning to meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday, a spokesman said Washington was trying to understand what happened.
Officials with Netanyahu in Canada said he had no plans to fly home early or cancel Tuesday's meeting with Obama.
Those talks had been expected to focus on U.S. efforts to move along tentative negotiations with Abbas. But peace talks, mediated by Obama's envoy, seem unlikely to go anywhere for now.
Israel's Arab enemy Syria, which hosts exiled leaders of the Hamas movement that rules Gaza, called for an emergency Arab League meeting.
The Cairo-based League condemned what it called Israel's 'terrorist act'.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called it 'inhuman'. Tehran urged the world to isolate Israel.
More worryingly for Israel, its friends also showed little sympathy. The outrage, which included U.N. condemnation of civilian deaths in international waters, sounded at times more uniformly hostile to the Jewish state than during its offensive in Gaza 18 months ago, which killed 1,400 Palestinians.
That war Israel justified by Hamas rocket fire on its towns. But it has found it harder to win understanding for the embargo which still limits supplies to 1.5 million people in Gaza, including concrete the U.N. says is need to repair bomb damage.
U.N. officials responsible for aid in Gaza said: 'Such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza.'
The European Union called for an immediate inquiry into deaths aboard aid ships seized by Israel's navy on Monday and urged Israel to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
The EU also called an emergency meeting of member states' envoys to Brussels to discuss the incident.
'High Representative Catherine Ashton expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded,' said a spokesperson for Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief.
'On behalf of the European Union she demands a full inquiry about the circumstances in which this happened.
The spokesperson said Ashton reiterated the EU's position regarding Gaza's closure.

'The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counter-productive. She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,' the spokesperson said.
A European Commission spokesman said separately EU ambassadors would meet later on Monday but gave no details.
The EU has a 300 million euro ($367.5 million) aid budget for the Palestinians.

Read more:
READ MORE - Israeli commandos gun down 19 peace activists in raid on Gaza ships with 28 Britons on board

U.S. Army Developing Pakistan Attack Plan As Possible Response To Terror Attack

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is developing plans for a unilateral attack on the Pakistani Taliban in the event of a successful terrorist strike in the United States that can be traced to them, The Washington Post reports.
Planning for a retaliatory attack was spurred by ties between alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and elements of the Pakistani Taliban, the Post said in an article posted on its website Friday night, quoting unidentified senior military officials.
The military would focus on air and missile strikes but also could use small teams of U.S. Special Operations troops currently along the border with Afghanistan, the Post said.
Airstrikes could damage the militants' ability to launch new attacks but also might damage U.S.-Pakistani relations.
The CIA already conducts unmanned drone strikes in the country's tribal regions. Officials told the Post that a U.S. military response would be considered only if a terrorist attacks persuaded President Barack Obama that the CIA campaign is ineffective.
A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Pakistan already has been told that it has only weeks to show real progress in a crackdown against the Taliban.
The U.S. has put Pakistan "on a clock" to launch a new intelligence and counterterrorist offensive against the group, which the White House alleges was behind the Times Square bombing attempt, according to the official.
U.S. officials also have said the U.S. reserves the right to strike in the tribal areas in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and other high-value targets.
At the same, the Obama administration is working to improve ties with Pakistani intelligence officials to head off attacks by militant groups, the Post reported.

Officials quoted by the Post and the AP requested anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding U.S. military and intelligence activities in Pakistan.
READ MORE - U.S. Army Developing Pakistan Attack Plan As Possible Response To Terror Attack

North Korea Severs All Ties With South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea declared it would cut all ties with South Korea in response to its blaming of the communist country for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, as tensions on the divided peninsula spiked to their highest level in a decade.
The dramatic deterioration in ties came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Seoul on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on how to deal with North Korea.
The North's announcement late Tuesday came hours after South Korea began taking steps that were seen as among the strongest it could implement short of military action – ranging from slashing trade, resuming propaganda warfare and barring the North's cargo ships.
Tensions have risen since last week, when a team of international investigators concluded that a torpedo from a North Korean submarine tore apart the Cheonan warship off the west coast on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.
The North flatly denies involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, one of the South's worst military disasters since the Korean War, and has warned that retaliation would mean war.
North Korea is cutting all ties with the South until President Lee Myung-bak leaves office in early 2013, the country's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, which handles relations with South Korea, said in a statement.
It also said North Korea would expel all South Korean government officials working at a joint industrial park in the northern border town of Kaesong, and South Korean ships and airliners would be banned from passing through its territory.
North Korea would start "all-out counterattacks" against the South's psychological warfare operations. Pyongyang called its moves "the first phase" of punitive measures against Seoul, suggesting more action could follow.
South Korea's military said Wednesday there were no signs of unusual activity by North Korean troops. At least two cross-border communication links were operating normally on Wednesday morning, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

Four North Korean submarines, however, have disappeared from South Korean radar since they left their eastern coastal base Thursday, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported citing an unidentified Seoul official.
The paper said South Korea's military was trying to track down the location of the submarines, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could not confirm the report.
Earlier Tuesday, a Seoul-based monitoring agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il ordered the country's 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat. South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the report. North Korea often issues fiery rhetoric and regularly vows to wage war against South Korea and the United States.
South Korea wants to bring North Korea before the U.N. Security Council over the sinking, and has U.S. support.
Clinton arrived in Seoul after wrapping up two days of intense strategic and economic talks with China, which responded coolly to U.S. appeals that it support international action against North Korea over the warship sinking.
The North and South have technically remained at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
The U.S. and South Korea are planning two major military exercises off the Korean peninsula in a display of force intended to deter future aggression by North Korea, the White House said. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Relations are at their lowest point since a decade ago, when South Korea began reaching out to the North with unconditional aid as part of reconciliation efforts. Lee has taken a harder line since taking office in 2008, and the South has suspended aid.
Associated Press writers Sangwon Yoon and Matthew Lee in Seoul, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
READ MORE - North Korea Severs All Ties With South Korea

What do you learn at terrorist training camp?

Faisal Shahzad’s failed NYC Times Square bomb plot (in which the man forget the keys to his getaway car) inspired Foreign Policy to explore what one exactly learns at a terrorist training camp. And below are the top three skills taught:
  • Marksmanship
  • Bomb-making
  • Indoctrination
Full story at Foreign Policy.
READ MORE - What do you learn at terrorist training camp?

Phantom Ray: Boeing unveils spy plane of the future... that doesn't need a pilot

By Claire Bates

It may look like a futuristic starfighter, but this sleek gun-metal craft is Boeing's latest unmanned spy plane.
Called the Phantom Ray, the cutting-edge unmanned airborne system (UAS) was unveiled at a ceremony in St Louis yesterday.
The sleek craft has a 50ft wingspan, measures 36ft long and has a gross weight of 36,500lbs. It operates at an altitude of 40,000ft, which is 10,000ft higher than the average long-haul commercial airliner. It will cruise comfortably at a speed of 614mph, or 0.8mach, just shy of the speed of sound.
The Phantom Ray was unveiled by Boeing yesterday
The Phantom Ray was unveiled by Boeing yesterday. It has a 50ft wingspan and is due to take part in test flights this summer
Boeing unveils the fighter-sized Phantom Ray, which has a 50ft wingspan
Boeing unveils the fighter-sized Phantom Ray, which has a 50ft wingspan
The Phantom Ray is a 'one off' demonstration vehicle intended to be a flying test bed for future technology development opportunities.
It was developed by Boeing Phantom Works based on a prototype that the company had originally created for the U.S military.
Designed in a way to create a very low radar cross-section, the craft doesn't betray its presence over enemy territories. The engine is buried within the body to reduce the infra-red signature, thus throwing missiles off its course. It is likely any weaponry on board would 'pop out' only when needed.

CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, Dennis Muilenburg, said: 'Phantom Ray offers a host of options for our customers as a test bed for advanced technologies, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack and autonomous aerial refueling - the possibilities are nearly endless.'
How the Phantom Ray could look in flight.
How the Phantom Ray could look in flight. It could be used both for surveillance and suppressing enemy air defences
The Ray has been developed in just two years through a process called rapid prototyping and manufacturing. It is scheduled for testing this summer and is due to launch in December, with 10 flights planned over six months.
'We are on a fast track, and first flight is in sight,' Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said.
Phantom Ray is designed to be a test bed for advanced technologies and support such missions as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, suppression of enemy air defences, electronic attack, strike and autonomous aerial refueling.
Crowds of employees gathered to view the Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system for the first time
Crowds of employees gathered to view the Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system for the first time

READ MORE - Phantom Ray: Boeing unveils spy plane of the future... that doesn't need a pilot

Air Passenger Found With Electrical Circuits In His Shoes

Faiz Mohammad
Pakistani civil engineer Faiz Mohammad looks on while in police custody in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Pakistani officers allegedly arrested Mohammad at Karachi Airport on Sunday after batteries and an electrical circuit were found in his shoes as he tried to board a plane for the Middle East, an official said.

KARACHI, Pakistan
— Pakistani airport authorities detained a passenger after electrical circuits and batteries were found in the soles of his tennis shoes, officials said Monday.
An initial investigation showed that the devices were used for massaging the feet, but the circuits could have other uses and authorities were continuing to examine them, senior police official Tanvir Aalam Odho said. Similar materials can be used in the construction of bombs.
The man, Faiz Mohammad, was arrested Sunday night at the Karachi airport, said Munir Ahmed, a spokesman for the airport security force. The materials were detected by a scanner.
Ahmed said each shoe contained a small circuit connected to two AAA batteries.
Mohammad, a building constructor headed to Muscat, Oman, told investigators he bought the shoes from a market in Karachi and had no idea there were circuits inside the soles.
In 2001, a British extremist was arrested after he tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight.
Pakistan's security efforts have come under scrutiny since an alleged Pakistani-trained extremist was accused of a failed car bombing in Times Square last week. Top U.S. officials have said the Pakistani Taliban were behind the plot.
Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, was targeted by authorities in the investigation into the Times Square bombing attempt. Four people with alleged links to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group affiliated with al-Qaida, were detained there.
READ MORE - Air Passenger Found With Electrical Circuits In His Shoes
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