Harper regrets deaths in Israeli attack on aid convoy

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Monday regretting the deaths and injuries that occurred when Israel used military force against a flotilla of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, but said more information is needed to shed light on what happened.

The statement was issued by his office shortly before Harper hosted a meeting in his office with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Canada deeply regrets the loss of life and the injuries suffered," Harper’s office said. "We are currently looking for more information in order to shed light on what exactly happened."

Prior to meeting Harper, Netanyahu gave his "full backing" to Israel’s military forces after Israeli navy commandos stormed the vessels in international waters, leaving as many as 19 people dead and others injured.

"The prime minister . . . reiterated his full backing for the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and inquired about the well being of the wounded," his office told AFP in Ottawa.

The incident prompted a wave of international condemnation, as Israel said it was forced to board the ships to uphold its blockade of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the United States "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy."

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, but reports indicated the visit had been cancelled.

At the United Nations, the Security Council will meet Monday afternoon for an emergency session to discuss the attack on the flotilla, Security Council diplomats told Reuters.

They said no time had yet been set for the meeting and gave no further details.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned Israel’s use of military force as "disproportionate."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights joined calls for an "immediate and credible" inquiry into the interception and urged Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"We need to establish exactly what happened. However, nothing can justify the appalling outcome of this operation, which reportedly took place in international waters," Pillay said in a statement.

"I unequivocally condemn what appears to be disproportionate use of force, resulting in the killing and wounding of so many people attempting to bring much-needed aid to the people of Gaza, who have now been enduring a blockade for more than three years."

According to Israel’s Channel 10 television, 19 passengers were killed when Israeli naval forces stormed the ships, although the army gave a toll of 10.

HangZhou Night Net

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