Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has accused Israel of breaking international law and has called for an international inquiry into the naval operation which killed at least 19 people and injured as many as 50 others. A total of 12 Irish passport holders were part of the flotilla.

Mr Cowen has blamed the Israeli blockade of Gaza for the commando assault on the flotilla of aid ships that included Challenger 1, which held three Irish passengers, Dr Fintan Lane, Fiachra O Luain and Shane Dillon.

One of the Irish passengers is said to be injured but the severity of their condition is unknown. Challenger 1 had traveled from Cyprus in the first wave of the flotilla and was boarded by Israel forces.

“The reason this has happened is there’s a blockade taking place at the moment in respect of humanitarian assistance being provided to Gaza, to the people of Gaza,” said Cowen.

“I believe that is in violation of international law. People are entitled to have humanitarian assistance.”

“Whilst the Israel Government have withdrawn from Gaza they retain a de facto occupying force since they decide what gets into Gaza and who gets of it.

“I believe therefore that the cause of this problem relates directly to the fact that there is a humanitarian blockade taking place against the people of Gaza.

“I question whether in fact there could be a legal basis for Israeli forces coming on to ships in international waters. This was a humanitarian mission.”

Dr David Landy, from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also believes that his Israeli operation was in breach of international law.

He said “The fact that Israel would allow its forces to kill and wound international human rights activists shows the world once again that Israeli is a rogue state that acts with impunity.”

Attempts at contact with the other Irish members involved in the flotilla are ongoing. It is believed that all the boats involved have been escorted to the Israeli port of Haifa, in the north of the country.

The vessel Rachel Corrie, which had five Irish onboard, was not part of the flotilla when the attack took place.

The ship which departed from Dundalk, County Louth was named after Rachel Aliene Corrie, an American member of the International Solidarity Movement, who was killed by a bulldozer operated by Israeli Defense Forces in 2003. Corrie and other activists had been acting as human shields in an attempt to stop the demolition of a Palestinian pharmacist.

Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire was also among the people on board one of the ships.

An Irish government spokesperson has said “We're trying to make contact with all the Irish on board the vessels. We're in touch with the Israeli authorities to see what happened. We have not been able to contact anyone at the moment.”

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has planned a demonstration in Dublin tonight to march towards the Israeli embassy.

The Irish Government Committee on Foreign Affairs has also summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evorny to an emergency meeting in Dublin this evening.

Palestinian's preparing to receive aid from flotilla which was attacked