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Israel's deadly Gaza flotilla raid sparks diplomatic crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a visit to the White House in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid, in which Israeli forces killed at least 10 while preventing humanitarian ships from breaching Israel's blockade of Gaza.

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There was no immediate response from the activists after the Israeli military jammed communications at the beginning of the operation around 4 a.m. After Israel's army evacuated the injured to Israeli hospitals, the ships were forced to sail to the port of Ashdod, where officials were waiting to deport the activists.

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The six-ship flotilla – the biggest attempt to bust the Gaza blockade in nearly two years of attempts – is sharpening public criticism of Israel over its three-year blockade of the coastal territory of 1.5 million Palestinians.

Israel has justified the blockade as necessary to prevent a weapons build up and argued that there's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while critics argue it amounts to using collective punishment to pressure Hamas.

Violation of international law?

Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, condemned Israel's storming of the flotilla – which took place in international waters – as a violation of international law and called on the United Nations Security Council to discuss the incident.

The Islamic militant organization, which the US, Israel, and the European Union consider a terrorist group, would get a political boost if international support for Israel's blockade eroded. Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat was unavailable for comment.

A spokesman for the White House expressed regret at the loss of life and said that it was reviewing the incident.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned "the disproportionate use of force" against the flotilla, the Associated Press reported. "All light must be shed on the circumstances of this tragedy, which underlines the urgency of resuming peace talks," he said in a statement.

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