Saturday, June 05, 2010

Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range.

As we hear of the Rachel Corrie being prevented from reaching Gaza, there are also disturbing reports surfacing regarding the wounds on the corpses of those killed aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Israel was tonight under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after autopsy results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.

Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the autopsies for the Turkish ministry of justice today.

The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.

And there, again, is the name Furkan Dogan; an American citizen, who was shot five times from less than 45 cm away. In the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.

Of course, the great change in the discourse over the past few days comes because Israel has had to release her prisoners and now the Israelis are not the only source of information on this subject.

The findings emerged as more survivors gave their accounts of the raids. Ismail Patel, the chairman of Leicester-based pro-Palestinian group Friends of al-Aqsa, who returned to Britain today, told how he witnessed some of the fatal shootings and claimed that Israel had operated a "shoot to kill policy".

He calculated that during the bloodiest part of the assault, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head just two feet in front him and another was shot once between the eyes. He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds and six activists remained missing, suggesting the death toll may increase.

The new information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel's insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the activists.

"Given the very disturbing evidence which contradicts the line from the Israeli media and suggests that Israelis have been very selective in the way they have addressed this, there is now an overwhelming need for an international inquiry," said Andrew Slaughter MP, a member of the all party group on Britain and Palestine.

There is now "an overwhelming need for an international inquiry", as more comes to light suggesting just what exactly took place on the Mavi Marmara.

And, I have to say, I think William Hague is behaving perfectly at the moment in his new role as foreign secretary.
Earlier this week, William Hague, the foreign secretary, said the government would call for an inquiry under international auspices if Israel refuses to establish an independent inquiry, including an international presence.
It's refreshing, after the years of Tony Blair and his silence when it came to ever criticising the Israelis, to have a foreign secretary who will speak as bluntly on these matters as Hague is now doing.

For this is not, ultimately, about the Mavi Marmara, this is about the siege of Gaza and the misery it inflicts upon an occupied people.

Ramzi al Burai knows better than most what it means to be imprisoned. This week's botched commando raid on the flotilla of pro-Palestinian aid activists trying to reach Gaza has swung the global spotlight on the Israeli-imposed blockade as never before, but the Al Burai family have been living that reality for the past three years.

Their severely disabled son, Taysir, requires round-the-clock care. Neither Ramzi nor his wife can leave the five-year-old for longer than an hour. Part-asphyxiated during delivery, the boy suffers from an acute neurological disorder. He is unable to talk properly, suffers spasms and anti-convulsant medication has left him partially paralysed.

If his parents could only get him to Germany, or even just across the border to Israel, he would be able to get the specialist medical care that doctors say could lead to a full recovery. Ramzi has repeatedly appealed to the Israeli authorities to allow his son out of the tiny coastal enclave, but has been refused each time.

This most recent outrage occurred because concerned citizens from all over the world are attempting to dismantle the blockade.
For three years, this siege has been a form of collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza. And it is scandalous that it has taken the deaths of nine passengers on the aid convoy this week for Israel's conduct to come in for serious international criticism. The cruelty of the blockade is obvious. Israel claims that it allows in all the humanitarian aid that Gaza needs. But the United Nations says that less than a third of the necessary supplies get through. The result for Gazans is widespread malnourishment. The embargo on fuel has created chronic shortages of electricity. The blockade on construction materials means that three-quarters of the homes and buildings destroyed in the 2008/2009 Israeli invasion have not been rebuilt. Gaza's sanitation system is close to collapse.
Calls for inquiries into what took place aboard the Mavi Marmara are merely steps towards that goal. This siege must end.


The Israeli claim that they only started firing after they were attacked has come under dispute.

As soon as this attack started, I was on the top deck and within just a few minutes there were live shots being fired from above the ship, from above, from where the helicopters were.


The first shots that were fired were either some sort of sound grenades, there was some tear gas that was fired as well as rubber-coated bullets. They were fired initially and the live bullets came roughly about five minutes after that.

Asked if the shots fired at the ship by the Israeli forces had seemed to come from ships nearby or the helicopters above, Mr. Elshayyal said:

It was evident there was definitely fire from the air, because one of the people who was killed was clearly shot from above — he was shot, the bullet targeted him at the top of his head. There was also fire coming from the sea as well. Most of the fire initially from the sea was tear gas canisters, sound grenades, but then it became live fire. After I finished filing that last report and I was going down below deck one of the passengers who was on the side of the deck holding a water hose — trying to hose off, if you will, the advancing Israeli navy — was shot in his arm by soldiers in the boats below.


There is no doubt from what I saw that live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck. What I saw, the sequence of events that took place, there was a pool camera, so reporters took it in turns to file, so after I had done my first file, I turned around to see what was going on and there were several shots fired. In fact, one of the helicopters at the front of the ship, you could almost see the soldiers pointing their guns down through some sort of hole or compartment at the bottom side of the helicopter and firing almost indiscriminately without even looking where they were firing. And those bullets were definitely live bullets.

The two versions of events simply could not be more different. Israel says her troops started firing after they were attacked. Here, Jamal Elshayyal states that the Israeli troops started firing before they came onboard. One of them is lying.
As Juan Cole says: "Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired on even before the commandos had boots on the deck. Presumably it is this suppressive fire that killed or wounded some passengers and which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos."
The Israeli version of events has enjoyed days of news coverage, whilst they detained the flotilla passengers and barred the media from speaking with them.

Only an inquiry can uncover what actually took place here.


Balloon Juice says all that needs to be said about the right wing claim that Furkan Dogan was not "a real American".

Click here for full article.


Steel Phoenix said...

There is no sign here of proportional response, no sign of mercy, and no sign of restraint.

Israel had all the guns, all the time in the world, an arsenal of non lethal methods, and troops who were obviously very good shots. Up against activists trapped in a boat with folding chairs and pipes, they chose to shoot them in the head with live munitions. This is as accurate a description of their entire Gaza policy as any; the only difference is they didn't starve them first.

Kel said...

This is as accurate a description of their entire Gaza policy as any; the only difference is they didn't starve them first.

Amen, SP. I agree with every word of what you have written, They had so many non-lethal routes which could have explored but they simply chose to go in with all guns blazing.

I think they have made a huge error. In terms of PR it's been a disaster for them.

There's simply no way to spin this one.

Anonymous said...

"Most of the fire initially from the sea was tear gas canisters, sound grenades, but then it became live fire."

They used non-lethal methods - it didn't work. What happens when they don't work? You use Lethal force.

5 Other ships were taken peacefully, one was not. To me it sounds like something happened on board that ship for that "not" to have occurred.

Kel said...

To me it sounds like something happened on board that ship for that "not" to have occurred.

Then why are the Israelis so reticent to allow an international inquiry? If they are as innocent as you appear to think?