Monday, May 31, 2010

Deaths as Israeli forces storm Gaza aid ship.

Shocking, truly shocking.

More than 10 people have been killed after Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army says. Armed forces boarded the vessels overnight, clashing with some of the 600 protesters on board.

The exact location of the interception is unclear. Israel had warned the ships not to enter its territorial waters.


The ships are carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to try to break a long-standing Israeli-led blockade.
Israel says its forces were attacked by activists when they got on board. "The people on the boats were very, very violent toward the soldiers," Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. Organisers of the flotilla said at least 30 people were wounded in the incident.
They were attempting to deliver aid to the stricken people of Gaza, and more than ten of them are now dead.

I said the other day that we were about to find out how obstinate the Israelis really were. But, honestly, I would never have predicted this.

We should wait for this story to fully reveal itself, but Ha'aretz are also carrying it, and they are saying the number of protesters killed is between ten and fifteen people.

And all of these people have been killed whilst trying to deliver aid.

The flotilla was fully prepared for the different scenarios that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would do what's right and not stop the convoy, one of the organizers said.

"We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us," Arraf said. "They are going to have to forcefully stop us."

I doubt any of us imagined that Israel would use the kind of force which she appears to have used.

The Turkish foreign ministry have already condemned Israel's behaviour calling it a violation of international law.

Turkey's foreign ministry on Monday denounced as "unacceptable" an Israeli attack on an aid convoy bound for Gaza which killed at least 10 people, summoning Israel's ambassador to discuss the incident and bringing already tense relations between the countries to new levels.

The ministry said that Israel had violated International law and must now carry the consequences.

"[The interception on the convoy] is unacceptable ... Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behavior," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Murat Mercan, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party, said: "I was expecting an intervention. I was not expecting bloodshed, the use of arms and bullets."

"Israel is engaged in activity that will extremely hurt its image," he said.

All of us expected an intervention, but I don't think anyone could have foreseen a loss of life on this scale. It really is truly shocking. These were people trying to feed other people suffering under an Israeli boycott, I don't think any of us imagined that their lives would ever be in danger. This was a flotilla which included the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland, and a Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85. I never imagined this scale of violence could be used against this sort of protester.

Speaking by satellite phone from the Challenger 1 boat, which has foreign legislators and other high-profile figures on board, a Free Gaza Movement leader, Huwaida Arraf, said: “We communicated to them clearly that we are unarmed civilians. We asked them not to use violence.”
And yet they did.

UPDATE:

Unsurprisingly, the Israelis have tried to lay the blame for this on the protesters.
Barak voiced regret for the deaths, but called the flotilla a political provocation and said the sponsors of the flotilla were violent supporters of a terror organization.
Those "violent supporters" included a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a Holocaust survivor.

UPDATE II:

William Hague has "deplored" what has happened:

William Hague said the British embassy was in "urgent contact" with the Israeli government, asking for more information.

He said: "I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza flotilla. Our embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli government.

"We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.

"We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.

"It would be important to establish the facts about this incident and especially whether enough was done to prevent death and injuries.

"This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza in line with UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1860."

Mr Hague continued: "The closure (of access to Gaza) is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

"I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians."

He is also calling for the boycott to end, which is long, long overdue.

UPDATE III:

Netanyahu has now cancelled his visit to Obama and the UN are holding a meeting at 6pm. The international condemnation is widespread.

And there's a very good article from the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper which argues "We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel's Vietnam."

Click here for full article.

6 comments:

Blue said...

Israel's political piracy in international waters kills humanitarian aid passengers.

How many more atrocities will Israel be allowed to be perpetrate before the European Union takes action to suspend all bilateral trade with the Israeli state. Boarding a ship on the high seas and killing passengers is an unacceptable act of brutality.

The specific human rights provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement have been breached by Israel continuously for at least three years, yet it is still allowed free access to European markets.

This trade must stop until such time as this extremist Israeli government learns to respect international law and human rights.

And the perpetrators of today's massacre need to be brought to justice quickly.

Kel said...

Something needs to be done because what has taken place is simply disgraceful.

Steel Phoenix said...

Truly shocking, even to one as jaded as myself. This story the top headline on CNN. If even the mainstream American media will display this story, perhaps Israel has overestimated their invulnerability.

Kel said...

SP, like yourself I am rarely genuinely shocked, but this one had me open mouthed.

They simply no longer care what anyone thinks.

merlallen said...

Attacking a NATO member wasn't real smart either. At least Israel managed to weasel out of signing the NNPT.

Kel said...

At least Israel managed to weasel out of signing the NNPT.

I don't think that's going to prove a sustainable position. Not if Obama's serious about nuclear disarmament.