Israel sends home last of flotilla activists

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The Independent Online

Israel today deported the last of the nearly 700 foreign activists held in its deadly raid on the Gaza aid flotilla.







It ordered everyone thrown out of the country after deciding not to prosecute any of the activists taken into custody during Monday's raid.



Officials had earlier said they were considering prosecuting about 50 people believed to be involved in violence, but the country's Attorney General said today that "keeping them here would do more damage to the country's vital interests than good".



Israel came under harsh international condemnation after commandos stormed the flotilla in international waters, setting off the deadly clashes. Israel said its soldiers opened fire only after being attacked by activists, who said they were trying to breach the blockade of Gaza to take in aid.



The raid that ended with Israeli soldiers killing nine activists has strained diplomatic ties, sending Israeli relations with Turkey, in particular, to a new low.



At least four of the nine killed were Turkish and the ship Israel attacked was Turkish. Israel ordered families of its diplomats out of that country a day after Turkey branded the raid a "massacre."



The assault on the flotilla continued to stir anger in Ankara, where Turkish politicians called on the government to review its political, military and economic ties with Israel.



In a declaration approved by a show of hands, they also said Israel must formally apologise for the raid, pay compensation to the victims and bring those responsible to justice.



Israeli officials said the decision not to prosecute any of the activists, despite suspicions that they were sent to attack Israeli forces on the ship, was an attempt to limit damage to Israel's relations with Turkey, an unofficial sponsor of the flotilla.



Meanwhile today Egypt eased its blockade of Gaza after the assault and at the newly opened crossing in the border town of Rafah, about 300 Palestinians entered through Gaza's main gateway to the outside world. A smaller number entered Gaza from Egypt and humanitarian aid also came in including blankets, tents and 13 power generators donated by Russia and Oman.



Gaza has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas militants seized power in a violent takeover of the seaside strip in 2007. Egypt's opening of the border was believed to be temporary, although the government did not say how long it would last.

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