U.N. Calls for Probe into Israeli Aid Ship Raid

This image made from video provided by the Israeli Defence Force, May 31, 2010 shows what the IDF says is one of several commandos being dropped onto the Mavi Marmara ship by helicopter in the Mediterranean Sea.
AP Photo/Handout
Updated at 7:58 a.m. Eastern.

The U.N. Security Council called Tuesday for an impartial investigation into Israel's deadly commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and condemned the "acts" that resulted in the loss of at least nine lives.

After an emergency meeting and marathon negotiations, the 15 council members agreed early Tuesday on a presidential statement that was weaker than that initially demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey.

They had called for condemnation of the attack by Israeli forces "in the strongest terms" and "an independent international investigation."

According to the statement released by the Security Council, the U.N. wanted a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

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Israel said the activists attacked its commandos as they boarded the six ships taking tons of supplies to Gaza, while the flotilla's organizers said the Israeli forces opened fire first. CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports that Israel claims the first five ships were boarded without incident, and the battle came on the sixth.

Meanwhile, another large cargo ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, had left port in Ireland and was sailing toward Gazan waters Tuesday.

Dr. Arafat Shoukri, Director of the Council for European-Palestinian Relations, a partner in the "Free Gaza" aid operation, told CBSNews.com the Corrie was still three days away from the Middle East and that the flotilla's organizers "have not decided yet" whether it should continue on its path.

"We will decide in the coming two days," Shoukri told CBS.

However, Greta Berlin, another member of the "Freedom Flotilla Coaltion," told the Associated Press Tuesday that the Corrie, along with another boat full of aid materials, would arrive in the region late this week or early next week.

"This initiative is not going to stop," she said from the group's base in Cyprus. "We think eventually Israel will get some kind of common sense. They're going to have to stop the blockade of Gaza, and one of the ways to do this is for us to continue to send the boats."

The discrepancy in the two coalition members stances could not be immediately resolved. CBS News was attempting to contact the coalition to clarify its stance on any further attempts to breach the blockade.

Shoukri said he was "sure" any activists who engaged in violence against Israeli troops Monday did so "in self defense". Shoukri said his organization doesn't believe the Security Council's condemnation of the "acts" goes far enough. "It should be stronger," he told CBS in a phone interview.

Asked whether the roughly 20 people - mostly European nationals - aboard the Corrie were in any way armed or braced for clashes with Israeli Defense Forces, Shoukri said: "This is a humanitarian mission... In no way are they prepared to confront the Israeli military."

The Security Council's unanimous "presidential statement" also called for the "immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel." CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk at the U.N. says a "presidential statement," though not as strong as a full U.N. resolution, is a powerful message.

"The U.S. delegation succeeded in tempering the language of the Security Council statement introduced by Lebanon and Turkey, which initially had language condemning Israel and calling for a U.N. investigation," said Falk.

CBS News correspondent Robert Berger in Jerusalem reports that about 600 activists and aid workers were arrested after the flotilla was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod following the raids, which took place in international waters. About two thirds of those aboard the aid ships were Turkish.

On Tuesday, Turkey's prime minister called the raid a "bloody massacre," and warned that no one should test Turkey's patience. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish lawmakers "this bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse."

He said the Israeli action was an attack "on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace." Erdogan called on Israel to immediately end its "inhumane" blockade of Gaza.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and called for the emergency session of the Security Council Monday as condemnations erupted across Europe and the Arab world over Israel's deadly commando raid.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a trip to Washington and was to reschedule a visit with President Obama at a later date. He was due back in Israel Tuesday after cutting short a visit to Canada.

CBS News Tel Aviv bureau chief Gaby Silon reports that about 50 foreigners from the ships were brought to an airport detention center in Israel Tuesday, waiting for deportation. Their nationalities were unclear but it didn't seem that American nationals were among those at the airport.

U.S. Embassy officials had been to the port detention center in Ashdod to speak with Americans detained in the raid. The officials would not tell CBS News how many Americans were present.

All Americans were to be deported as soon as bureaucratic procedures were completed, according to the Embassy officials.

Silon reports that Israeli officials were expected to truck much of the aid material brought to the country by Monday's bloodied flotilla into Gaza on Tuesday.

Silon reports that, despite fear of widespread unrest from the Arab population in Israel, the West Bank and Arab villages and towns remained relatively quiet Tuesday morning. Some strikes and demonstrations were planned for later in the day.