Inquiry urged into Israel convoy raid

01/06/10

Israeli commando
An Israeli commando is lowered onto the Mavi Marmara. Pro-Palestine groups say the ship was taking aid supplies to Gaza.

Israel says it was self defence - their critics say it was a 'war crime'. An investigation's been ordered after Israeli commandos stormed a ship leading a convoy of aid to Gaza.

At least 10 people were killed and many more injured.

The worst of the violence happened on-board the Mavi Marmara, where campaigners say Israeli forces opened fire without warning.

However Israel claims its soldiers were attacked with knives, clubs and other weapons.

As many as 28 Britons are thought to have been taking part in the mission.

The flotilla was carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the troubled Gaza Strip region.

Israel operates a blockade on Gaza, preventing certain items being taken into the area.

What is Gaza?

Gaza, or the Gaza Strip, is a narrow section of land on the edge of the Mediterranean - just above Egypt and to the West of Israel.

The population of the Gaza Strip is around 1.5 million. Almost all are Palestinian Arabs.

Around half a million of those live in refugee camps.

The Gaza Strip dates back to 1948 when the map of the Middle East was being re-drawn... literally.

The newly created State of Israel soon found itself in a war with neighbouring Arab countries.

At that time, Egypt took control of Gaza.

In 1967, the area was occupied by Israel, which remained in control for almost 40 years.

Gaza Strip map

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza.

Since 2007, political control has been in the hands of Hamas - a militant Islamic group.

Many countries, including the UK and United States classify it as a terrorist organisation.

Regular rocket attacks on Israel from within the Gaza Strip have been blamed on Hamas.

Israel has responded to these attacks with military action.

Gaza blockade

Following Hamas' election in 2007, both Israel and Egypt have operated an blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Gaza tunnel
An elaborate network of tunnels is used to smuggle goods into Gaza from Egypt

Israel maintains that it is necessary to stop weapons and other supplies reaching Hamas.

A limited amount of humanitarian aid is allowed into the region.

Critics of the blockade say it has a particularly damaging affect on the refugee population, limiting food and medical supplies.

Amnesty International has called it "a crime against humanity".

The blockade has led to a growth in smuggling through tunnels under the Egypt/Gaza border.

While Palestinians say this is necessary to get vital supplies into the area, Israel claims is used to supply Hamas with arms.

2010 aid mission

In May 2010, several pro-Palestinian campaign groups and charities arranged a flotilla of six boats.

Their plan was to deliver aid to Gaza, in violation of the blockade.

Commandos from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) raided the boats.

It remains unclear exactly what happened on-board.

Israel maintains that its forces were set-upon.

The campaigners claim they were the victims of an unprovoked attack.

At least 10 people were killed.

Many of those taking part in the mission were Turkish.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel's raid a "bloody massacre".

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he regretted any loss of life, but gave full backing to the troops' actions.

The UN Security Council has called for an impartial investigation into what happened.