U.N. urges caution as more aid ships head to Gaza

By Patrick Worsnip and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (BestGrowthStock) – The United Nations urged caution on Tuesday as activists at sea vowed to break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza, hours after the Security Council demanded an investigation into a deadly Israeli commando raid.

U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters that the world body was aware of media reports that at least one more ship laden with aid and pro-Palestinian activists was bound for the Gaza Strip, a day after Israeli marines killed at least nine activists who Israel said had brutally attacked the commandos.

“We are obviously closely following these developments,” she said. “And in light of what happened yesterday, we reiterate our call to all concerned to act with a sense of care and responsibility and for a satisfactory resolution.”

U.N. officials have already raised their concerns with Israel about further aid ships en route to Gaza, Okabe added.

“All parties should act in accordance with international law and avoid provocations at this sensitive time,” she said.

In the early hours of the morning, the Security Council adopted a carefully crafted formal statement calling for an impartial investigation, though it quickly gave rise to conflicting interpretations. The council also requested the immediate release of all ships and civilians held by Israel.

Israeli marines on Monday stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, a Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas Islamists and blockaded by Israel, and detained hundreds of people.

The incident, in which the Israeli military said at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, most of them Turks, sparked widespread condemnation.

WHAT KIND OF INVESTIGATION?

The 24-line statement, read to the 15-nation council by its president, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, said the body “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza.”

“The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 (sic) civilians and many wounded,” it added. Council statements carry less weight than resolutions, but unlike them have to be unanimous.

The council statement, adopted in the small hours of Tuesday morning, called for “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”

Diplomats said the word “independent” had been dropped from early drafts of the statement at U.S. insistence because it suggested that the investigation should not be carried out by Israel itself.

But, speaking to journalists after the statement was adopted, Heller said “impartial” meant the same as “independent” and that the United Nations should determine who would carry out the investigation.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff disagreed. “We … support an Israeli investigation … and have every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial, transparent, prompt investigation internally,” he told reporters.

Okabe did not say whether U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would insist on an independent U.N. investigation as Turkey and others have demanded — which Israel might refuse to cooperate with — or accept an Israeli probe.

“He will be discussing the future course of action, including an investigation, with Arab, Turkish and Israeli officials, as well as with members of the Security Council and other world leaders,” she said.

“Obviously the most pressing issue is the release of the detainees, return of the deceased and care for the wounded.”

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(Editing by Vicki Allen)

U.N. urges caution as more aid ships head to Gaza