GAZA CITY (AMP) — American archaeologist Conrad Yeats was one of those captured—and since expelled—during Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, according to U.S. officials.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would not comment on the mystery surrounding Doctor Yeats. But Israeli authorities suggested he was merely trying to defy a passport ban prohibiting from him entering Israel after he was caught several years ago tunneling beneath the hotly contested Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“He’s a tomb raider, not an activist,” said a spokesman traveling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The Turks didn’t even know he was on board. He is no threat to Israel so long as he remains outside Israel.”
Mr. Netanyahu defended the blockade of Gaza and the raid, saying it is needed to prevent missile attacks against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He added that terrorists affiliated with Hamas were to blame for the violence on board.
“This was not the Love Boat, it was the Hate Boat,” he said.
In Istanbul, about 10,000 mourners buried eight of the slain activists, with a further service due for a Turkish journalist who also was killed on the Turkish-owned passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned Israel for the incident, and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, had said early Wednesday that Turkey would review its ties with Israel if all Turks weren’t released by the end of the day.
Doctor Yeats was expected to arrive in Turkey with the other released activists. But when his plane landed in Istanbul, he was not on board.
His whereabouts are unknown.