“The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, striking a note of support for the victims of an attack by Israel on an aid-laden flotilla of ships bound for Gaza.

After nearly two days of relative caution in its response, the United States came out strongly against the commando-led attack on the flotilla on Monday, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists on board.

Earlier, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs, Philip Crowley, said in a statement that the U.S. was “working to ascertain the facts, and [expects] that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.”

However, Ms. Clinton said, “We urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately.”

On Wednesday it was reported that Israel had deported to Jordan more than 120 foreign activists that it had detained and that another 506 people, most of them from Turkey, would be deported soon.

Ms. Clinton further said the U.S. supported “in the strongest terms” the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation and any Israeli investigation that met those criteria.

She added the U.S. would however “continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead”; yet she pointed out that the situation from the United States’ perspective was “very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned”.

Conditions in Gaza

On the broader question of the conditions in Gaza Ms. Clinton echoed earlier statements by the State Department that the situation there was “unsustainable and unacceptable”, noting that both Israel’s legitimate security needs as well the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must be assured.

The Secretary of State also reiterated the fundamental U.S. position on the Israel-Palestine issue, arguing, “Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties.” The flotilla incident underscored the urgency of reaching that goal and the U.S. remained committed to working with both sides to move negotiations forward, she said.

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