Israel kills at least 16 and injures 30 peace and justice activists on Flotilla to Gaza
If your corporate media is not showing news on the Freedom Flotilla and Israel’s piracy, turn on Al Jazeera or scour the net.
The Flotilla of civilians carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza has been attacked by Israeli forces roughly 65 km Gaza’s coast… that’s international waters.
Up to 16 people were killed and more than 30 people injured when troops stormed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, the Israeli Army Radio said.
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.
Footage from the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops had used live ammunition during the operation.
The Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire “after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects”.
Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships.
They also said the ships were now being towed to the Israeli town of Haifa, instead of Ashdod to avoid waiting journalists.
Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.
Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.
Organisers of the flotilla carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.
They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.
Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli action was surprising.
“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation,” he said.
Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action.
Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke. The protesters shouted “Damn Israel” as police blocked them.
Turkey is also reported to have summoned the Israeli ambassador to lodge a protest.
Meanwhile, Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has dubbed the Israeli action as “barbaric”.
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, are with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.
But Israel has said it will not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip and vowed to stop the six ships from reaching the coastal Palestinian territory.
The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.
Israel said the boats were embarking on “an act of provocation” against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.
From the Flotilla last night:
(Cyprus, May 31, 2010) At 11:00 pm Cyprus time and in international waters off the coast of Israel, the boats were contacted by the Israeli navy. “Who are you and where are you going?” Our reply was that we were part of a flotilla and we were going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies.
On the radar, the boats could see three Israeli war ships shadowing us, and 15 minutes later, a silent aircraft hovered over the flotilla. One of our Hebrew speakers had found Israel’s strategy and posted it to us. It stated, “You will be boarded by highly trained, very efficient and very SILENT commandos. They will use silent inflatable boats to get to our boats and both try to board our boats directly from the inflatables and by dropping divers into the water to climb onto the boats,” so people were preparing for them to come up and over the sides of the ships.
Lubna Marsawa, Free Gaza’s organizer on the Turkish passenger boat said in outrage, “Very few times in history has a flotilla delivering humanitarian goods been welcomed by military war ships.”
This is a call to the world from the people on the boats. “We are a civilian people doing what our governments have refused to do, challenge Israel’s right to collectively punish 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza by blockading their right to their own sea. This flotilla is bringing construction and educational supplies the people of Gaza and are being met by Israeli warships.”
I came to Gaza by boat in November 2008, and while I expected we could be stopped, abducted and deported by Israeli pirates in naval boats, I never thought they would actually kill us, despite recent history [the countless Palestinians killed, the international activists and reporters killed].
And even last night, despite the Israeli war on Gaza last year which killed nearly 1500 Palestinians, nearly all civilians, and in which Israel’s war crimes were too shocking and numerous to comprehend, I still ‘only’ expected Israeli naval pirates to abduct the justice activists. Not kill.
Contact: Huwaida Arraf on board the Challenger 0088 216 5207 2093
Ewa Jasciewic on board the Challenger 0088 163 184 7926
Fatima Mohammed on board the IHH ship 8821636619168
Greta Berlin 00 357 99 18 72 75
Mary Hughes 00 357 96 38 38 09
Find the Israeli embassy nearest you and let them know how you feel.
In 2009, Israel pirated a Free Gaza boat, abducting all passengers aboard.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Justice
tel: +972 2646 6666 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 2646 6666 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or +972 2646 6340 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 2646 6340 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: +972 2646 6357
CONTACT the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
tel: +972 2530 3111 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 2530 3111 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: +972 2530 3367
CONTACT Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
tel: +972 5 0620 3264 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 5 0620 3264 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or +972 2670 5354 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 2670 5354 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!
Red Cross Israel
tel: +972 3524 5286 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 3524 5286 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: +972 3527 0370
Red Cross Switzerland:
tel: +41 22 730 3443 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +41 22 730 3443 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: +41 22 734 8280
Red Cross USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +1 212 599 6021 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
fax: +1 212 599 6009