Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a statement Friday backing Israel amid a controversy over its shooting of nine pro-Palestinian activists on a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip.

Reid said the U.S. strongly stands behind Israel and the Jewish state has a right to uphold its blockade of the small territory that is controlled by the Islamic extremist group Hamas. 


“Israel is one of our strongest and most important allies, and the United States stands firmly with Israel at this critical time," he said in a statement. "Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens, and, therefore, has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected."

The Obama White House has taken a more measured stance in the incident, condemning the loss of life and waiting for the results of an independent investigation of the shootings to offer further judgment. 

In an interview on CNN last night, Obama was even-handed in his comments but said the incident does not bode well for Israel's long-term security. 

Before Reid made his statement, several Democratic members of Congress had been outspoken in their defense of Israel.

Though Reid strongly backed Israel, he lamented the loss of life. 

“I deeply regret the loss of life in the flotilla incident, including the death of an American citizen," he said. 

The Nevada senator said “Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings.”