Source: unic.org

Strongly condemning Israel's actions against the humanitarian flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted today to dispatch an independent, international probe into violations of international law resulting from Monday's incident.

With 32 votes in favour to three against, and nine abstentions, the 47-member Council also deeply deplored the loss of life resulting from Israel's “attack” on the convoy, and demanded that Israel release all detained persons and material aboard the ships.

Italy, the Netherlands and the United States voted against the resolution, which also called on Israel to immediately lift the blockade on Gaza, which it imposed for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007.

Israel's military interception of the aid ships led to the deaths of several civilians and the wounding of dozens of others. Early yesterday the Security Council issued a resolution in which it “condemns those acts which resulted in the loss” of the lives of civilians and calls for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation” into the incident.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has also called for a prompt probe, has appealed for the immediate release of those detained in the raid, and he said today in remarks to journalists at UN Headquarters in New York that most of the detainees are now returning to their home countries.

Mr. Ban said that he would consult with concerned parties on the way forward after the Security Council's presidential statement and the Human Rights Council's resolution.

The Secretary-General noted that he has already had discussions with Arab, Turkish and Israeli representatives, as well as with members of the Security Council.

Israel must provide “a full and detained accounting of the events” around the military operation, he said, adding that he was relieved to learn that most of the detainees are now returning to their home countries.

He stressed that the incident highlights a serious underlying problem – that Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip is “counterproductive, unsustainable and wrong” and should be lifted immediately.

Asked about reports that another convoy of ships is heading towards Gaza, Mr. Ban urged all parties to act with caution and responsibility to avoid a repeat of Monday's incident.

The aid convoy that was intercepted by Israel was said to have been carrying educational, medical and construction materials, as well as hundreds of activists from different countries, to Gaza, where the blockade has caused ongoing suffering for 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants.

The UN has repeatedly spoken out against the closure of Gaza and raised concerns over the insufficient flow of material into the area to meet basic needs and spur reconstruction.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), today voiced her concern that a number of journalists who were aboard the ships had been detained by Israel.

Ms. Bokova expressed her shock at the incident, and highlighted the need to ensure that journalists can report accurately and without hindrance.