US had urged Israel to observe caution, restraint on flotilla move to Gaza Strip

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Washington, June 3 (ANI): The Obama administration had urged Israel to use "caution and restraint" with the half a dozen aid boats bound for the Gaza Strip before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in an operation that killed nine people.

"We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla," the Washington Post quoted P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, as saying in a statement.

"We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens," he added.

The acknowledgment sheds new light on the administration's contact with the Israeli government before the Monday morning raid, which has inflamed international opinion against Israel and complicated President Obama's efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

White House officials said Wednesday that there is a growing consensus within the administration that U.S. and Israeli policy toward Gaza must change, even as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flatly rejected calls for his country to lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu, addressing his nation Wednesday for the first time since the raid, angrily defended Israel from mounting international criticism over its use of force against the flotilla, which was carrying construction materials, medicine, school paper and other aid to Gaza when Israeli commandos set upon it in international waters.

Netanyahu called the criticism "hypocrisy" and described Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in a narrow slice of dunes and refugee camps between southern Israel and the sea, as "a terror state funded by the Iranians."

The Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish charity organized the flotilla that Israeli officials say has connections to radical groups.

Israel said Wednesday that it had completed the deportation of the more than 700 activists detained after the raid. Most of them were flown to Turkey, which was Israel's chief Muslim ally in the region before the raid but has since withdrawn its ambassador. (ANI)

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