International reaction: Turkey demands that Israel be punished

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The Independent Online

World leaders issued a chorus of criticism of Israel yesterday for its bungled and bloody raid on an aid flotilla sailing towards the Gaza Strip even as the United States came under pressure from a key Nato ally to abandon its traditionally cautious response to acts of aggression by Israel's military.

In response to the White House's statement of "deep regret" on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu used a previously arranged meeting with Hillary Clinton in Washington to declare his dissatisfaction with the American stance on an incident in which at least four of the dead were Turks.

"I have to be frank: I am not very happy with this statement from Washington yesterday," he said. "We expect a clear condemnation." Turkey's Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, was visibly angry when he told a parliamentary meeting: "Israel's behaviour should definitely, definitely be punished. The time has come for the international community to say 'enough.'"

A 10-hour emergency session of the United Nations Security Council ended in the early hours of yesterday morning with a statement, supported by Britain, calling for an "impartial" and "transparent" investigation of the raid which cost the lives of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

The UN also condemned "those acts which resulted in the loss of... civilians and many wounded". The mention of "acts" plural was an indication, however, that after hours of negotiating the council had not ruled out that the activists aboard the boats may shoulder some of the blame for the tragedy.

As the Security Council said that the blockade by Israel is "not sustainable", Egypt, which has largely enforced the siege that was imposed upon the rise of Hamas in June 2007, announced it was opening the border for at least several days to allow in humanitarian aid. But with the timing of the move unclear, Associated Press reported that several thousand Gazans – some in cars with suitcases piled on their roofs, others on foot – hastened to the Egyptian border, hoping to take advantage of the chance to leave the territory.

Criticism of Israel also surfaced at an EU-Russia summit in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don yesterday. "The death of people is irreparable and absolutely unjustified," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a news conference with EU leaders. EU President Herman Von Rompuy called the deaths "inexplicable" adding: "We regret the loss of life, condemn the use of violence and demand an immediate, full and impartial investigation."

But Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made it clear to a meeting of his security cabinet last night that he would not bow to calls for an end to its naval blockade of Gaza, which he described as a "terror state funded by the Iranians".

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