Hamas, PNA condemn Israeli attack on 'Freedom Flotilla'

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The deposed government of Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) condemned on Monday the Israeli naval forces' attack on the "Freedom Flotilla" which was heading to the shores of the blockaded enclave carrying international activists and humanitarian aid.

The Hamas government held an emergency meeting chaired by premier Ismail Haneya, following the Israeli Television Channel 10 report that 16 activists on the ships were killed and 30 wounded, including the Israeli-Arab Islamic activist Sheikh Raed Sallah.

Ismail Haneya, the premier of Hamas government told reporters in Gaza that the Israeli attack on the ships is a "brutal attack," calling on the international community, mainly the United Nations to move as quickly as possible to protect the ships and the activists and to end the blockade."

Meanwhile, the Hamas-government committee to challenge the Israeli siege said in a statement sent to reporters that it considers the activists, who were killed "as the martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla, adding that "the world should put an end to the biggest country of pirates (Israel)."

"The attack on the ships is an international crime and a political scandal carried out according to an Israeli military order. I call on the Palestinian Authority to immediately suspend its negotiations with Israel," Haneya told reporters.

He called on the Palestinians for protests of rage on the streets of the Gaza Strip, and called on the Arab states that "the response to the Israeli criminal attack on the Freedom Flotilla is to end the unfair Israeli siege."

Israel has been imposing a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip since the Islamic movement seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007. However, Israel said that in spite of the blockade, it allowed food, fuels and humanitarian aid into the enclave over the past three years.

At least 16 people were killed and 30 wounded early on Monday when the Israeli naval forces attacked the Freedom Flotilla, which was heading to the blockaded Gaza Strip shore, Israeli TV Channel 10 reported.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) also condemned in a statement sent to reporters the Israeli naval forces attack on the Freedom Flotilla and seizing all the ships and forcing them to sail to an Israeli seaport.

The statement, published by the state-run news agency "Wafa" quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as saying "what Israel has committed against the activists of the Freedom Flotilla is a massacre."

"This is a crime against humanity," said Nabil Abu Rdineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "Unarmed activists trying to lift Gaza siege by delivering aid supplies were attacked," he added.

Abu Rdineh warned that the "Israeli aggression will lead to dangerous consequences in the region and in the world," calling on international relief organizations to help evacuate the wounded from the Mediterranean to hospitals.

Officials said that the Freedom Flotilla, which includes commercial ships and vessels carrying international activists and officials as well as humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip was attacked on Sunday morning by the Israeli naval forces.

The European Campaign to Defy the Israeli Siege on the Gaza Strip said in a press statement sent to reporters on Monday that the Israeli attack on the ships left dozens of people killed and wounded.

The Israeli Television reported that the number of the dead might rise, adding that the Israeli naval forces seized the Flotilla and forced it to sail to the Israeli seaport of Ashdod, adding that two Israeli soldiers were injured.

"When the Israeli naval forces attacked the fleet of ships, it was about 20 miles from the shores of the Gaza Strip. The attack was carried out at 4:00 a.m. local time," said the statement of the European Campaign.

The European campaign statement also confirmed that Sheikh Raed Sallah, the Israeli-Arab Islamist activist was seriously injured. Salah was among the activists who were joining the Freedom Flotilla.

The Israeli "Sky Winds" operation, planned by the Israeli naval forces, which attacked the Freedom Flotilla convoy of ships from reaching Gaza shores, outraged the Palestinians. The Gaza-based factions called for massive popular rallies and demonstrations to protest the attack.

The Freedom Flotilla includes a huge Kuwaiti commercial ship that will raise the flags of Turkey and Kuwait, and another one funded by Algeria, while the third ship is funded by Sweden and Greece. The five other vessels will be carrying around 700 people coming from 40 countries.

One of the vessels is called the "8,000 vessel" which refers to the number of Palestinian and Arab prisoners imprisoned in Israeli jails. Among those who will be on board of the five vessels, there are 44 officials, parliamentarians and politicians coming from European and Arab countries.

The three huge commercial ships are carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid, including medicines, construction materials, woods, and 100 housing caravans aimed at supporting dozens of homeless Gazans that list their homes during the three-week Israeli war on the Gaza Strip early last year.

The fleet will be also carrying 500 electric wheeling chairs for the physically disabled Palestinians, who were victims of the last Israeli war. The last Israeli war had left around 600 physically disable people in the poor blockaded enclave.

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