israel isolated

GAZA- Israel found itself isolated on the global stage yesterday as world leaders demanded a swift and honest probe into its deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla.

GAZA- Israel found itself isolated on the global stage yesterday as world leaders demanded a swift and honest probe into its deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla.

A day after the pre-dawn assault in international waters, which left 10 pro-Palestinian activists dead, nations across the world condemned the Jewish state for what Turkey's prime minister branded "a bloody massacre".

In New York, an emergency session of the UN Security Council called for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" that would satisfy international standards. It also demanded the immediate release of all six vessels and the hundreds of Palestinian supporters who were on board.

Most of those killed in the violence were Turkish and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel should be "punished".

"The insolent, irresponsible and impudent attack by Israel, which went against law and trampled human honour underfoot, must definitely be punished." .

Turkey, once Israel's main partner in the region, has scrapped joint war games and recalled its ambassador. Britain, France, Russia and China, four of the five veto-wielding Security Council members, urged Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Even the US, traditionally Israel's strongest ally, hinted that the blockade - in place since 2007 when the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory - should at least be eased.

The outrage that greeted the raid prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off a visit to Washington and talks with President Barack Obama.

The White House voiced "deep regret" at the loss of life and said it was waiting for the full facts to emerge, but also made it clear that it trusted Israel to carry out a full, credible investigation.

Meanwhile, delegates from the EU and Nato gathered in Brussels for talks, after EU ambassadorscriticised Israel's use of force and demanded an immediate and impartial inquiry.

Russia, hosting a summit in Rostov-on-Don with the European Union, backed the call for a probe, with President Dmitry Medvedev slamming the loss of life as "absolutely unjustified".

China said it was "shocked" by Israel's actions and was prepared to back a quick response from the UN Security Council.

In Geneva, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council was due to hold a special session to consider setting up an international fact-finding mission.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked" by the naval assault and called for Israel to "urgently" explain itself.

Across the world, thousands of people protested on the streets and many countries summoned Israel's ambassadors. Israel had warned that it would intercept the ships, but Monday's assault turned into a fiasco.

The Israeli military blamed activists on the ship for creating the confrontation by attacking its soldiers. The Muslim world united in condemning what Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas called a "massacre".

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned the "excessive and unjustified force" while Jordan, the only regional power other than Cairo to have a peace treaty with Israel, handed in a protest note. - Sapa-AFP

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