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Kucinich wants Obama to 'call Israel to an accounting'

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Ohio Democratic representative criticizes Monday attack on Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza
  • He says attack undermines U.S. troops' efforts in Iraq
  • Republican representatives issue statements in support of Israel
  • World Health Organization calls on Israel to allow medical supplies to go into Gaza freely

Washington -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, called Wednesday on President Barack Obama "to call Israel to an accounting" for its attack Monday on a Turkish ship that was traveling in international waters laden with humanitarian goods for Gaza.

Israel's conduct "constitutes an act of belligerence against Turkey, which at one time Israel considered an important ally," the Ohio Democrat wrote. "It also undermines United States troops' efforts in Iraq, since your administration's efforts to achieve stability in the region and to withdraw troops from Iraq has depended upon Turkey's cooperation through use of its air bases."

He called for the United States to "begin to redefine its relationship" with Israel and for Israel to face diplomatic and financial consequences for the attack, which killed nine people.

"If our nation fails to act in any substantive way, the United States licenses the violence and we are complicit in it and our own citizens will be forced to pay the consequences," he wrote.

A number of Republicans issued statements in support of Israel, including the co-chairmen of the House Republican Israel Caucus.

"As the facts trickle in and we learn more and more about the questionable nature of the crew aboard the Turkish-sponsored Marmara ship, it has become clear that it is false to characterize the nature of this mission as 'humanitarian,' " said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.

"Rather, this was an attempt to provoke Israel, create international uproar and force an end to an Egypt-Israel blockade meant to stop Hamas from arming."

"The United States has no greater friend in the Middle East, and it is important that we stand with our strategic and democratic ally in the face of sanctimonious international pressure," said Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Illinois.

In addition, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, weighed in with support for Israel. "No one likes to see the loss of life; no one likes to see military confrontation, but Israel has a right of self-defense, and the reality is that Gaza is essentially an isolated, smaller version of a terrorist state," he said.

"It launched lethal attacks against Israeli citizens in the form of thousands of rockets and this blockade has saved lives."

He denied a humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza. "Hospitals are fully stocked, food markets are fully stocked," the five-term congressman said.

But the World Health Organization on Tuesday renewed its call for Israel to allow the unimpeded access into Gaza of medical supplies and described a different situation.

Hundreds of items of equipment procured by WHO and other organizations have been waiting to enter Gaza for up to a year, said Tony Laurance, head of WHO's office for Gaza and the West Bank.

The items include CT scanners, x-ray machines, fluoroscopes, infusion pumps, medical sterilization gasses, laboratory equipment, uninterrupted power supply batteries and spare parts for support systems like elevators, he said.

"It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective healthcare system under the conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007," Laurance said. "It is not enough to simply ensure supplies like drugs and consumables. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained."

In addition, medical staff cannot leave Gaza for training, he said.

Disruptions of power, water and sanitation services also affect health conditions for Gazans, he said.

Gaza's second-largest hospital, the Gaza-European Hospital, operates with only one of its three elevators functioning because of disrepair, he said.

Because many specialized treatments are unavailable in Gaza, patients are often sent to hospitals outside Gaza. Several have died awaiting permission from Israeli authorities to travel, he said.