More than 40 Britons on board Gaza flotilla: London

1st June 2010, Comments 0 comments

More than 40 Britons were on a flotilla of ships heading to Gaza on which nine people died in an Israeli raid, officials said Tuesday, as families voiced concern they could not contact loved ones.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would discuss the incident with his European Union counterparts, in the sidelines of a meeting with their western Balkan colleagues in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

"This incident should underline, not undermine the efforts to bring a proper solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, in updated comments on Monday's raid by Israeli commandos.

He also voiced concern that the incident has further antagonised Turkey, one of Israel's major allies in the region.

"The fact that Turkey has become so detached from Israel... should be worrying," he said, after Turkey's prime minister said Israel must be punished for its "bloody massacre" on aid ships bound for Gaza.

Hague said 31 British nationals were detained by Israeli authorities, of whom one had already been expelled, while another 11 dual nationals were also arrested, including one who was injured.

But the exact number was unclear as some people were travelling without passports and others did not have travel documents, he said.

"We believe there are roughly 40 British nationals involved in the flotilla, though given the confused situation, we are urgently trying to establish the exact figure," said a Foreign Office spokesman.

As officials rushed for clarification, relatives of those on board spoke of their concern about the fate of their loved ones, who are thought to be in an Israeli detention centre.

"It's absolutely terrible not knowing what has happened to him and it's terrible that the British government hasn't done more but they don't want to fall out with Israel," said Rachel Bridgeland, whose partner Peter Venner was one of those on board.

"They should insist that the British people are allowed to phone us, they have done nothing illegal."

Agi Donovan, whose sister Ewa Jasiewicz was also on board, said she had heard nothing and hoped her sibling was safe.

"All of us in the family have been trying to call her... and nobody's been able to reach her," she said on BBC radio.

"There have been suggestions that the mobile phones of all the passengers have perhaps been confiscated so that could be a reason."

© 2010 AFP

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