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Clinton: US Looking for New Ways to Aid Gaza After Flotilla Incident

  • David Dyar

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that the United States is discussing possible ways to increase the flow of humanitarian goods to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, following Monday's lethal Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. U.S. officials confirm that a U.S.-Turkey dual national was one of nine activists killed in the incident.

In the immediate aftermath of the commando raid, the Secretary of State described the Israeli blockade of Gaza as unacceptable and unsustainable. Now she says the United States is consulting other nations on possible ways to increase the flow of humanitarian goods into the coastal strip while protecting Israeli security needs.

Israel, trying to stem the traffic of weapons to Hamas, has tightly restricted shipments of goods into Gaza, including cement and construction supplies that it contends would be used by Hamas to fortify its bunker system.

The United States has tried for several years to broker arrangements with Israel, Egypt and other parties that would ease humanitarian needs in Gaza while excluding weapons.

At a joint press event with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, Clinton said that effort has been renewed, following the flotilla incident. "There's a great deal of consultation going on as well as work in our own government to determine ideas that we would share with the Israelis and other international partners because, as I have said before, we have to deal with the situation in Gaza in a way that both protects Israel's legitimate security interests and fulfills the needs of the people of Gaza. And that is what we're seeking," he said.

Clinton reiterated the U.S. call on Israel to conduct an impartial, credible and transparent investigation of Monday's commando operation.

Mindful of broad skepticism about an Israeli inquiry, she said the United States is open to "different ways" of assuring its credibility, including appropriate international participation.

The State Department confirmed earlier Thursday that an American-born, U.S.-Turkey dual national was among the nine pro-Palestinian activists killed in the Israeli commando operation. Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, who had been living in Turkey, died of gunshot wounds. But he offered no details.

Crowley said the United States in the run-up to Israel's interception of the convoy, had urged Israeli officials to exercise the kind of caution and prudence they had shown in handling previous private Gaza relief efforts.

"We had taken this seriously from the moment that we understood this flotilla was being organized, and that we understood its ramifications for regional security and the fact that American citizens would be on board these vessels. We had a number of conversations with both the Israeli government and with others in the weeks leading up to this. We have been very conscious of the ever-present danger of miscalculations when these kinds of situations and confrontations take place," he said.

Crowley said Turkey was among other countries contacted in advance of the incident. But he did not say whether Ankara had been asked to try to prevent the largely Turkish-manned and financed fleet from sailing.

He said that despite Arab outrage over Monday's incident, U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is continuing a mission in the region aimed at advancing indirect "proximity" peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He also said it has had no discernible impact on U.S.-led efforts to broker new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.