Bibi cancels White House visit in wake of flotilla riot
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned visit to the White House following the deaths of nine protesters on a Gaza-bound ship boarded by Israel’s Navy.
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet Tuesday with President Obama following a weekend visit to Canada. The Israeli leader is now scheduled to return to Israel later Monday following a meeting with Canadian President Stephen Harper, Haaretz reported.
In Washington, the White House released a statement Monday saying that “The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday morning called for three days of mourning and ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast, the Palestinian news service Ma’an reported.
Israeli ambassadors in Spain and Greece, as well as in Turkey, were called in to the country’s foreign ministries to clarify Israel’s actions, according to reports.
In Turkey, dozens of protesters throwing rocks tried to storm Israel’s consulate in Istanbul following news of the Israeli interception. Turkey also reportedly has recalled its ambassador to Israel, further weakening ties between the two countries.
The European Union on Monday morning called for a comprehensive inquiry into the deaths of protesters aboard the flotilla, and called for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
“High Representative Catherine Ashton expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence, and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded,” said a spokesman for Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
Israeli police went on high alert across the country out of concern that Arab citizens of Israel would riot. The Temple Mount area in Jerusalem has been closed, according to reports.
Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau released a travel warning Monday afternoon for Turkey, recommending that all Israelis due to leave for Turkey should refrain from traveling there at this time, and that all Israelis currently in Turkey “should remain in their places of residence, avoid city centers and sites in which demonstrations are being held, and monitor developments out of concern that the situation could worsen.”