Turks March against Israeli Attack

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Turkish city of Istanbul and around the world to denounce Israel over its attack on the convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships that left at least nine people dead.

Around 10,000 people marched from the Israeli consulate in Istanbul towards the city’s main square shouting slogans and waving banners saying "Killer Israel".

Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said there were up to 400 Turks among those aboard the Mavi Maramara, the Turkish cruise vessel which was leading the so-called Freedom Flotilla.

Other demonstrations denouncing the Israeli raid have been held in many cities around the world, including the capitals of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and the UK.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank clashed with Israeli security forces who responded with tear gas, injuring many people.

An emergency session of the United Nations Security Council is under way to discuss the matter.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned Israel’s actions and called for an investigation.

European Anger

Pro-Palestinian campaigners marching in London spoke of their fears about the fate of British citizens aboard the flotilla.

Several hundreds activists blocked Whitehall, the main administrative area for the UK government, shouting "Free Palestine" and carrying flags and banners with slogans such as "Stop Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza" and "End the Criminal Siege of Gaza".

Kate Hudson, chairwoman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), who joined the demonstration, said: "Obviously we have great support for the humanitarian convoy which has gone there to try and bring relief to the people in Gaza.
"It is devastating and deplorable that the Israeli forces have attacked civilians on the flotilla.

"We have close friends on the boat on which people were killed and we are here waiting for news.

"We are trying to get through to them but we are not getting any answers."

Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their respective countries to protest against the assault.

Greek police fired tear gas at demonstrators protesting outside the Israeli embassy in Athens after about 2,500 protesters rallied outside the building, chanting "Hands off Gaza".

In Paris, hundreds of protesters also clashed with police after charging at the Israeli embassy.

Police responded by firing tear gas, and some officers used police batons to beat back protesters.

Paris police headquarters said about 1,200 people had joined the demonstration.

Consulate Stormed

Earlier on Monday, protesters in Istanbul attempted to storm the consulate, scaling over the compound’s walls, but were blocked from going further by police.

Protests also took place in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

A charity in Turkey has said most of those killed in the raid on six ships in international waters were Turkish nationals.

Israel has advised its citizens to avoid travel to Turkey and instructed those already there to keep a low profile and avoid crowded downtown areas.

Arinc said that the nation would be cancelling three joint military exercises and recalling a youth football team from Israel.

Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Istanbul, said relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated since Israel’s recent war on Gaza.

"Up until that point they had … a constructive military alliance and for many years they saw the issue of domestic terrorism as one they had to share information about," she said.

"But since the Gaza war relations have nose-dived and it would be absolutely fair to say that this is the lowest point."

International Condemnation

Israeli forces stormed the flotilla, which was carrying 700 pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tonnes of aid, while they were 65km off the Gaza coast in international waters.

The action has brought widespread condemnation, with the EU foreign affairs chief demanding that Israeli authorities mount a "full inquiry" into the attack.

Catherine Ashton also reiterated a longstanding demand for "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza," a spokesman said.

France and the UN’s Middle East envoy have also condemned the attack, while Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel’s air force chief.

There are about 700 activists on board the flotilla, included people from the US, Britain, Australia, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Algeria, Serbia, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Kuwait.

The majority of people on the ships are from Turkey.
(Agencies via Aljazeera.net English)

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