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by RAY FLEMING

WILL the Israeli attack on the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla early yesterday morning prove to be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of any remaining support for Israel -- even from the United States? It was noticeable that the White House's reaction was confined to regret at the loss of life whereas every other official response -- from the UN, the EU and many individual countries -- placed the blame on Israel for its disproportionate action. From Britain, William Hague's statement was to the point -- “There is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.” He also called on Israel to open its check points with Gaza to enable adequate humanitarian supplies to pass through; at the moment, according to the UN, what Israeli lets through represents only one-quarter of what is needed in Gaza -- a shocking fact that has led to the organisation of the flotilla that was attacked yesterday.

When writing about this flotilla last week I said that there was a real doubt whether Israel had the right to impose a marine exclusion zone along the coast of Gaza. What is absolutely clear is that Israel had no right at all to attack the flotilla in international waters yesterday. It was, in effect, an act of armed piracy. The pictures shown on CNN of Israel soldiers abseiling from a helicopter to the deck of one of the ships was shocking.