UN chief urges Israel to lift Gaza blockade

Israel`s blockade of the Gaza Strip was responsible for the deadly raid on a foreign aid flotilla.

Kampala: Israel`s blockade of the
Gaza Strip was responsible for the deadly raid on a foreign
aid flotilla and should be lifted, UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

"Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the
international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this
tragic incident would not have happened," the UN chief said to a news agency in an interview.

At least nine activists were killed yesterday when
Israeli navy commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla,
sparking international outrage and plunging the Jewish state
into a diplomatic crisis.

"It would have been avoided without such tragedy,
therefore I again urge Israeli authorities to lift this
blockade," Ban said on the sidelines of a conference in Uganda
on the International Criminal Court.

Ban said he had reiterated his request today in a phone
call with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on a
mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to the Gaza

Israel slapped a crippling blockade on the tiny
Palestinian territory in 2007 after Hamas -- an Islamist
movement which calls for the destruction of Israel -- seized

Israel had said that the aid ships` attempt to break the
blockade was a provocation and had warned it would intercept
them and arrest the activists.

The Jewish state also argued that the activists had
initiated the violence yesterday and that Israeli commandos
had only defended themselves.

Ban, who said yesterday in Kampala he had been "shocked"
by the deadly offshore operation against the aid flotilla,
reiterated his call for a thorough investigation into the

The UN Security Council, in a 12-hour emergency session
called following the incident, demanded a full investigation
but stopped short of requesting an independent probe.

"This is an issue which I take... very seriously, and
upon my return to New York I will immediately engage in
discussing what kind of measures should be taken with regard
to having a full investigation into this matter," Ban said.

He also said he had spoken to Palestinian President
Mahmud Abbas today and obtained assurances that he would go
ahead with the so-called "proximity" peace talks sponsored by
the United States.

"This morning I had a telephone talk with President Abbas
of the Palestinian Authority. I expressed serious concern
about what had happened. I again urged President Abbas to
continue proximity talks despite this incident," he said.


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