1 Jun 2010

Israeli ambassador expresses regret for deaths

9:53 pm on 1 June 2010

The Israeli ambassador to New Zealand has expressed his regret over the deaths of pro-Palestinian activists on board aid ships stormed by Israeli commandos.

Shemi Tzur told Checkpoint that the deaths were a tragedy but that they would never have happened if those on board had cooperated and not acted violently.

Mr Tzur said he was not in a position to judge whether the force used by the soldiers was disproportionate.

If the activists had really wanted to send aid to Palestine, he said, they should have done it through Israel.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully had earlier summoned Mr Tzur and told him that New Zealand expected a factual explanation of what happened and would be keeping a close eye on any investigations.

NZ woman on aid ship safe and well

The sister of New Zealand woman Nicola Enchmarch, who was on board one of the aid ships, says her sister is safe and well.

Ms Enchmarch, who works for a British-based aid organisation, was on the Mavi Marmara, where most of the violence took place.

Sister Kathryn Enchmarch says her family have had no contact with her but are co-ordinating through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr McCully says he understands Ms Enchmarch declined to sign a form agreeing to immediate deportation and is now in a detention centre. He says she will receive a consular visit tomorrow.

Stronger response wanted

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the Government's reponse to the tragedy has been too soft, and Labour leader Phil Goff says New Zealand must make its displeasure clear.

The Palestine Human Rights Campaign group says the meeting with the Israeli ambassador does not go far enough - it wants Mr Tzur expelled.

And a senior Turkish diplomat in New Zealand has told Radio New Zealand the Israeli forces were acting illegally.

The Turkish Embassy's charge d'affaires, Nilufer Feyizoglu, says the people on the flotilla should not face charges, and should be returned home immediately.

Ms Feyizoglu says most of the activists who died were Turkish citizens.