Israel Rejects U.N. Inquiry; Four More Killed in Gaza Waters

By Julianne Hing Jun 07, 2010

This morning, Israeli forces killed four men who were diving in the waters of the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian militant group claimed the men as its members and Israel Defense Force spokespeople said the four men were "on their way to a terrorist attack," but did not give details on how they were killed.

The news came after U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon proposed an inquiry into Israel’s attack on an aid ship that left nine people dead last week. Israel quickly rejected the U.N. chief’s demands, insisting that it will be working with the United States on an alternative way to conduct an inquiry.

Over the weekend, Israeli forces seized the Rachel Corrie, a second aid ship holding over a thousand tons of medical, school and construction supplies that was on its way to break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Saturday’s forceful takeover did not result in any deaths; most of the 19 passengers and crew members aboard agreed to deportation from Israel. Many have already arrived in their home countries.

The 12-ton Rachel Corrie ship was named after the activist who was crushed to death in 2003 trying to stop the demolition of homes belonging to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Force addressed the ship as the "Linda," the name for the vessel before it was christened with Corrie’s name.

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire Nobel Peace Prize laureate described the moment the Israeli officers boarded the ship:

They came on board in full combat gear, at 11 o’clock in the morning, their faces blackened and masked with long guns and two short guns, I mean 35 navy coming on board the boat, it was scary enough, but when they saw we were sitting down, totally non-violent they didn’t use the weapons.

Aid ship organizers have said they plan to send three more ships in the coming months to challenge the blockade. Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson, defended the blockade of Gaza, telling the BBC that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and that Hamas was responsible for blocking aid into the area.

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a group the Wall Street Journal called "a militant affiliate" of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s party, maintained that the four people killed this morning were in the middle of training exercises.

Photo: Israeli soldiers and naval personnel are seen next to the Rachel Corrie, off the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod (Reuters/Amir Cohen)