BEIRUT: Lebanese officials joined international condemnation on Monday of the “horrific” attack on an aid convoy bound for Gaza, urging world leaders to call Israel to account for its actions.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri asked for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which Lebanon headed throughout May, to work out a unified response to the “dangerous and crazy” Israeli raid.
“Lebanon firmly denounces this attack and calls on the international community, notably major powers to take action in order to end this continued violation of human rights and threats to international peace,” Hariri said in statement on Monday.
President Michel Sleiman called the assault – in which at least 9 people died – “a criminal act and a massacre added to Israel’s record of organized crimes and terrorism.
“The storming of a ship carrying humanitarian materials and food to a besieged people is a crime against humanity,” Sleiman said in a statement released by his office.
He reiterated Hariri’s call for immediate UN action by asking for an emergency Security Council session.
Israeli naval commandoes stormed a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid in international waters during the early hours of Monday morning.
The convoy had been bound for Gaza and had hundreds of volunteers from 40 countries aboard.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the attack was an “official military crime against activists” which required a “tangible Arab and international stance to penalize Israel and stop treating it as an exception to which international laws do not apply.”
Hizbullah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters news agency that those activists taken into Israeli custody would be considered by the party to be international prisoners of war.
“Israel’s kidnapping of civilian hostages from international waters and their arrest constitutes a barbaric aggression and Israel bears complete responsibility if any happens to them,” Fadlallah said.
“Any delay by the Security Council in moving quickly against this Israeli crime constitutes a cover-up,” he added.
Speaking following a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Ali al-Shami, Berri called on the International Criminal Court to involve itself in “this crime and all crimes against Arabs, especially in Palestine.”
A statement released by the Future Movement called for a national day of mourning to commemorate those who lost their lives as well as to express solidarity with Turkey and “all our friends in peaceful countries” in support of Gaza.
Shami said that the Foreign Ministry had been engaged in intense diplomatic conversations all day, including making contact with his Turkish and Syrian counterparts.
“We have asked Lebanon’s permanent mission at the UN to coordinate with the Turkish mission in order to call the Security Council to hold an emergency session today to discuss the attack,” he said.
Aboard the flotilla were seven Lebanese nationals, according to the General Coordinator of the National Initiative Committee to Break the Blockade of Gaza (NICBBG), Maan Bashour.
He told The Daily Star that in addition to delegation head Hani Suleiman, who was injured in the attack, three Lebanese activists were being held with three journalists.
“We are in contact with Suleiman and he is in hospital. He was shot in the leg and wounded on the ship. Three others, including Bishop Hillarion Kabbousi and three Lebanese nationals working for Al-Jazeera are now in Israeli custody,” Bashour said.
Parties from across the political spectrum blasted Israeli aggression on Monday. A Lebanese Forces source condemned Israel Naval commandoes’ “use of arms to kill activists and civil society members.”
Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblatt said that Monday’s incident typified Israel’s approach to international law.
“Once again, we have seen Israel’s brutality. This behavior is new evidence that Israel absolutely refuses to abide by laws and international treaties,” he said in a party statement.
Speaking in response to political camps who accused Hizbullah’s arsenal of providing Israel with a pretext for an attack on Lebanon, Jumblatt said:
“Today we a have a new proof that Israel does not need an excuse to attack. It attacked a ship belonging to a country with which it has diplomatic relations.
“Lebanon should support the people of Turkey and Palestine after this new massacre,” he added.
“This is another black day in Israel’s history,” said Osama Hamdan, the Lebanon representative of Hamas, during the protests in downtown Beirut on Monday.
“It shows the true face of Israel, which continues to target civilians who are attempting to break the siege [on Gaza],” Hamdan told AFP.
In a statement addressed to members of the humanitarian mission, the mainstream Fatah faction’s press office praised activists for their efforts to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
“You have proven your support and conviction for the Palestinian cause by standing by the side of the people in Gaza. Today you are paying the price of your principles and your stances against Israel’s racism,” the statement said.
“You have proven to the world that Israel is an enemy to humanity and freedom.”
A host of Lebanese and pan-Arab NGOs chimed in with strident criticism of Israel’s decision to attack a fleet carrying only civilians and humanitarian aid.
“This crime was committed in front of the international community,” the Palestinian Organization for Human Rights (RASED) said. “Israel executed its threats to suppress any solidarity with Gaza. This crime and the threats that preceded it are not new; they are part of Israel’s policy, attacks and escalating violations committed against Palestinian civilians and all those supporting them.”
The Beirut-based Witness Association for Human Rights listed Israeli violations of international law, which “considers international water to be open to all countries without discrimination.”
“Killing civilians on purpose, after a political and military decision, is a crime against humanity,” it added. Developmental Action without Borders [Naba’a] called for “an urgent international investigation of this crime, a comprehensive fascism in the 21st century."