At the initiative of one of Turkish NGOs there was formed a flotilla of six small-tonnage ships with the stated aim of breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip and delivering humanitarian aid (about 10,000 tons, mainly medicines, foodstuffs, construction materials) to the people of the enclave. On board were up to 600 human rights defenders and activists of pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, mainly from Turkey and several European countries.

On the morning of May 31 the vessels, which were reportedly on the high seas off the coast of the Gaza Strip, were stopped by Israeli Navy ships demanding to head for an Israeli port for the cargo’s inspection. After refusal to comply, the Israeli commandos who had boarded the ships used force by firearms and special equipment. As a result, according to various sources, more than 10 people were killed and about 50 received injuries of varying degrees of severity.

Moscow voices condemnation and profound concern in this connection, especially in view of the deaths and injuries among the “humanitarian convoy” participants. There is a need for clarification of all the facts of what happened. Obviously, the use of arms against civilians and the detention of the vessels on the high seas without any legal grounds constitute a gross violation of generally accepted international legal norms.

At the same time we consider the incident as confirmation of the need for an early end to the siege of Gaza by Israel and for the implementation of real steps to alleviate the humanitarian and social situation for the people of the Strip.