News / Middle East

US Calls on Israelis and Palestinians to Avoid Another Deadly Confrontation

The United States is calling on all parties in the Middle East to avoid another deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and pro-Palestinian activists trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says U.S. officials are in contact with multiple countries about an Irish aid ship with pro-Palestinian activists on board heading to the Gaza Strip.

"Everybody wants to avoid another confrontation and avoid a repeat of Monday's tragic events," said Crowley. "We have been in touch with the Irish government. They are in turn in touch with the individuals on board the Rachel Corrie. We would hope to see the Rachel Corrie and other vessels work with Israeli authorities to deliver these materials to Gaza."

Organizers with the Free Gaza Movement say the Rachel Corrie is loaded with 20 tons of aid, including construction materials, the group says Israel will not allow into the Gaza Strip because of a blockade against the militant Hamas government that controls Gaza.

On Monday eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin were killed after Israeli commandos raided their ship in the Mediterranean Sea as it headed to Gaza.

The activists were on the ship as part of an aid convoy arranged by a Turkish group trying to break Israel's three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The blockade has been in effect since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007 and is designed to stop weapons smuggling and rocket fire into the Jewish state.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley (File)
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley (File)

Crowley says U.S. officials and those from a variety of countries are discussing proposals to increase the flow of humanitarian goods into Gaza, while also supporting Israel's security concerns.

"We are working with the Israelis," he said. "We are working with the Palestinian Authority and other international partners. We are looking to see how we can best accomplish this. We hope in the meantime that everybody here will make responsible decisions and avoid unnecessary confrontations."

The U.S. is urging Israel to conduct a transparent, impartial and credible investigation into Monday's raid.

While there is much skepticism about an Israeli inquiry, Crowley says the U.S. is exploring ways to make it credible.

"We continue to talk to Israel about how that investigation will be conducted and as the secretary has indicated how, perhaps how, there might be an international role for this, including a role for the United States," he added.

Crowley says U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has completed the latest round of indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which he called constructive and substantive.

In addition to those meetings, Mitchell attended the 2010 Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem.

Crowley says France, Italy and the United States pledged a combined $655 million for the development of the Palestinian private sector.

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