4 Jun 2010

Funerals held for Gaza convoy casualties

8:13 am on 4 June 2010

Large crowds turned out on Thursday in Turkey, where funerals took place for the nine people killed in an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla heading to Gaza.

Their coffins were draped with Turkish and Palestinian flags at a mosque in the city of Istanbul. Eight of the dead were Turks.

President Abdullah Gul has issued a statement saying the attack that killed them will not be forgiven or forgotten.

The Turkish charity, IHH, says it believes the death toll is higher than nine, because it has a list of missing people who are not among the hundreds Israel has deported.

The UN Human Rights Council has voted to set up an investigation.

However, Israel says there is no need for an international inquiry into the incident, insisting its own will meet the "highest international standards".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday his troops had no choice but to stop the ships.

He argued the flotilla had been aiming not to deliver humanitarian aid to Gazans, but to break Israel's blockade.

He said it was Israel's duty to prevent rockets and other weapons being smuggled into Gaza to Hamas by Iran and others.

Turkey recalled its ambassador after the incident on Monday.

Meanwhile, Israel is reported to be considering some form of international role in enforcing an arms embargo on Gaza, while allowing civilian goods.

A source close to the Prime Minister's office says Mr Netanyahu plans to convene senior cabinet ministers on Thursday to discuss the idea.

Next confrontation

Another ship is on its way across the Mediterranean to try to break the Israeli blockade.

The MV Rachel Corrie had been due to be part of the original flotilla but was delayed because of technical problems.

The BBC reports the ship could be in the region by Saturday. Israel has said it will not be allowed to dock in Gaza.