Israel Deports Flotilla Activists, UN Approves Investigation

Israel has deported over 120 activists who were detained after clashes on a humanitarian convoy headed to the Gaza Strip left nine people dead.

Another 500 activists, most of them Turkish, are scheduled to be deported soon.

The activists were part of a six ship "Freedom Flotilla" carrying 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza in defiance of Israel's naval blockade of the region.

Deadly skirmishes followed after Israeli forces boarded the convoy on Monday and said they were threatened with deadly weapons, including live ammunition.

Organizers of the flotilla, which include Turkish terrorist organization IHH, have denied the allegations.

The incident sparked outrage from international leaders, many of whom accused Israel of using a disproportionate amount of force in their attempt to stop the convoy. Other leaders, including members of the Israeli legislature, have called on Israel to end the Gaza blockade.

World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the incident as a "flagrant violation of international law by Israel in attacking and boarding a humanitarian convoy in international waters," adding that "the legitimate humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza [must] be met in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The flotilla event reminds us "yet again of the pressing need for an end to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories," Tveit said. "The World Council of Churches reiterates its commitment to work for just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel."

The WCC's remarks come as the group is in the midst of a week-long advocacy effort to lobby for peace between Palestine and Israel.

On Monday, a group of Palestinian and Jewish activists held a roundtable discussion in Geneva to discuss the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and the need to hold the Israeli State accountable under international law.

"After 62 years [in which Palestinians have suffered] continued dispossession, forced displacement, apartheid, occupation and colonization, we just want people to begin to say: the State of Israel is not special, it is not above international law," Hazem Jamjoum, a Palestinian activist, told the WCC news service.

According to Jamjoum, who described the flotilla incident as "murder," the only reason the State of Israel can continue carrying out its policies against the Palestinian people is "because the international community is doing nothing about it."

Jamjoum then urged the audience to "think how you and your organizations, whether they are state-related or not, can engage in a campaign to hold Israel accountable."

On Wednesday, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a full, Goldstone-like investigation into the convoy skirmish - a move that has been rejected by Israel, who has insisted on conducting their own investigation, which they maintain meets the highest standards.

The White House has said that they support the U.N.'s call for a "prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation," but added that they trust Israel to carry out such an investigation on their own.

Meanwhile, organizers of the failed flotilla have announced that they will be launching a second, larger convoy in a few weeks.

"Following the massacre committed by Israeli forces against solidarity activists on board the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, there have been increasing calls by Arab, Islamic, and European countries to launch a new aid fleet much bigger than the first one. This is a clear challenge by the free people of the world in the face of Israel's arrogance," organizer Arafat Madhi told Ma'an News.

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