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Fallout from flotilla raid roils Israel

ASHDOD, Israel – Tensions are high at the moment. Everywhere you go, all people are discussing is the Israeli military’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

The Israeli government is standing by its claim that commandos used force – killing nine people – only after activists attacked them with knives, crowbars and clubs. But the activists, who had set sail for Gaza with tons of aid hoping to break Israel's 3-year-old blockade of Gaza, counter that the Israeli commandos fired first.


‘Long live Israel’
Our NBC News team has been doing live TV reports for the last several days from a hill overlooking the port of Ashdod, where the convoy of ships was forced to dock.

Residents arrived on the scene immediately to show their support for Israel and their outrage at the media for what they perceive as their role in helping to turn the raid into an international affair.

Demonstrators carrying flags, singing the Israeli national anthem and chanting “long live Israel” quickly appeared on the scene. One demonstrator painted graffiti on a nearby wall saying, “We don’t forget the Armenian blood,” referring to the Armenian massacre by the Turks in 1915.

And the Navy commandos involved in the operation have received some unlikely support from about 70,000 people on Facebook who started an Internet campaign saluting them.

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Outburst in the Knesset
Meanwhile, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, saw perhaps the strongest reaction to the incident when the Israeli-Arab lawmaker Haneen Zoabi, who was onboard the Gaza-bound flotilla when it was raided, tried to speak Wednesday.

Members of the Knesset erupted in anger – yelling, cursing and even charging the podium in an attempt to stop her from continuing her speech.

From the podium she said that she agreed to participate in the flotilla because it was a “political, human and moral imperative to oppose the imprisonment of 1.5 million people.”

She described the blockade of Gaza as an “illegal, inhuman, illegitimate siege opposed by every politician who has a moral position.... Only the immoral support the blockade.”

Her remarks caused violent jeers from other members of the Knesset, with shouts accusing her of being a terrorist and saying she should be checked for weapons.

Trip to Turkey this summer, maybe not
But the biggest reverberation from the Israeli military’s actions may be the hitherto close relations between Israel and what was its most important Muslim ally, Turkey.

The summer months are usually marked by the mass migration of vacationing Israelis to Turkey. Cheap “all inclusive” deals to beaches in Anatalya and Bodrum have become havens for Israeli summer vacationers.

But that movement of people may not happen this summer.

“I wouldn’t suggest to any Israelis in the near future to be a tourist in Turkey, because it will be very dangerous for Israelis to go there,” Shimon Shiffer, a reporter for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth said.

The airlines may already be adjusting their schedules. My travel agent said that over the next two weeks, only two flights will fly to Turkey. Last week there were two flights a day.

Paul Goldman is an NBC News Producer based in Tel Aviv.