Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Statement on the seizure of the Gaza flotilla by the Israeli Defence Force

31st May 2010

The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament deeply regrets the casualties including fatalities which resulted from the Israeli military interception of a flotilla of ships led by the Turkish Islamic humanitarian organisation Insani yardim vafki ("humanitarian relief fund" or IHH in German), Charles Tannock MEP, ECR foreign affairs coordinator in the European Parliament, said today.

EU member states and the EU Delegation to Israel are being asked to make urgent enquiries via their Ambassadors into full details of the event, including details of any EU citizens involved.

Dr Tannock said that the advice given by member state governments of the EU has consistently been to avoid any such forceful attempts to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza imposed in response to continuing rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilian populations. It was always made clear by Israel that it would respond militarily to such an attempt and specific warnings were issued to the ships participating in the flotilla they would be only allowed to land in the port of Asdod and transfer their aid across the established land crossings.

However, Dr Tannock also said that Israel is under legal obligation to respond proportionately and with restraint according to its international legal obligations under maritime law regarding maritime blockades.

He has called for the IDF to undertake a full investigation to ensure that sufficient measures were in place to avoid injuries and in particular fatalities. Initial reports suggest that the boarding IDF forces were met with live fire as well as long knives and pointed iron spikes and several IDF personnel are suffering from severe gunshot wounds and stabs.

Dr Tannock the ECR Foreign affairs Coordinator stated today in response to this tragic incident:

"This is yet another example of the tragedy of the continuing futile conflict between Hamas which controls the Gaza strip and its radical Islamist allies and the state of Israel.

"Although the convoy was carrying much needed humanitarian aid it would also appear its main purpose from the statements of the IHH organisers was not to deliver aid which can reach Gaza by land anyway but about provocatively breaking the maritime siege.

"I deeply regret any loss of life and in particular condemn the carrying of children by IHH on board the flotilla in the knowledge the pre-planned action could result in violent confrontation putting innocent lives at risk. However, I also call on the Israeli government to fully investigate the incident and hold any IDF forces shown to have used unjustified or excessive force to account and legal due process. I also call on Israel to ensure that unfettered humanitarian aid is continuing to reach the civilian population in Gaza."