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Israel to expel all activists by day's end

June 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Israel on Wednesday was deporting the last of the nearly 700 foreign activists detained in a deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that was blockaded. Yehuda Weinstein, Israel's attorney general, ordered everyone be deported after deciding not to prosecute any of the activists taken into custody during Monday's raid.

Earlier officials said they were considering prosecuting 50 people believed to be involved in violence. But according to Weinstein, "keeping them here would do more damage to the country's vital interests than good."

Ever since naval commandos stormed the flotilla in international waters, Israel has come under severe international condemnation.

Israel's bloody raid on six aid ships that carried 700 activists who were trying to break the Israel's navel blockade of Gaza killed nine activists.

Since the attack the diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey have hit a new low. Israel ordered families of its diplomats out of that country a day after Turkey branded the raid a "massacre."

Latest developments:

  • Officials at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv say all of the foreign activists have been taken to the airport to be deported. Turkish and Greek protesters were to fly home on special planes sent by their respective governments, while other foreigners were to travel home on commercial flights.
  • The assault on the flotilla continued to stir anger in Ankara, where Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday called on the government to review its political, military and economic ties with Israel. In a declaration approved by a show of hands, the lawmakers also said Israel must formally apologize for the raid Monday on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, pay compensation to the victims and bring those responsible to justice.
  • Israeli officials said the decision not to prosecute any of the activists, despite suspicions that they were sent to attack Israeli forces on the ship, was an attempt to limit damage to Israel's relations with Turkey, said an unofficial sponsor of the flotilla.
  • Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament called on the government Wednesday to review all ties with Israel. A heated debate continues on whether to impose military and economic sanctions on Israel.
  • Hundreds of Turks protested Israel's commando raid for a third day Wednesday.
  • Also Wednesday, Egypt eased its blockade of Gaza after the assault and at the newly opened crossing in the border town of Rafah, about 300 Palestinians entered through Gaza's main gateway to the outside world. A smaller number entered Gaza from Egypt and humanitarian aid also came in including blankets, tents and 13 power generators donated by Russia and Oman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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