Monday, May 31, 2010


Israeli ships attack Gaza aid flotilla: reports
Last Updated: Monday, May 31, 2010 1:51 AM ET Comments124Recommend388
The Associated Press
Hamas security officers patrol the waters off Gaza on Sunday while waiting for a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists on six ships. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)Israeli warships attacked at least one of six ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid for blockaded Gaza, killing at least two and wounding an unknown number of people on board, Middle Eastern news agencies reported early Monday.
A later report by an Israeli television station said the death toll may have reached 16.
The Israeli military denied that its forces attacked the ships, which were in international waters, but said they would enforce the decision to keep them away from Gaza.
Reaction swift
In Syria, eight Damascus-based Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, urged Arab and Muslim states to work to support the flotilla and warned Israel against committing any "foolishness to impede the vessels," which could "create more tension and trigger unpredictable reactions."
In Ankara, Turkey's Foreign Ministry condemned the raid and demanded an "urgent explanation" from Israel. It says Israel violated international laws and will suffer consequences. In Istanbul, Turkish police blocked dozens of stone-throwing protesters who tried to storm the Israeli consulate following reports of the attack, news channels reported. "Damn Israel," the protesters shouted.
However, an Israeli cabinet minister voiced regret for deaths aboard Gaza aid ships seized by Israel's navy on Monday, the first official acknowledgement that the incident had turned fatal.
"The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities," Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio.
Captain wounded
The al-Jazeera satellite network reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli naval forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain. The Turkish NTV network also reported an Israeli takeover with gunfire, and at least two people were killed.
The al-Jazeera broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"
A Turkish website showed video of pandemonium on board one of the ships, with activists in orange life jackets running around as some tried to help an apparently unconscious activist.
The reports came just after daybreak, with the flotilla still well away from the Gaza shore. Israel had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza.
The head of the Gaza Hamas government, Ismail Haniyeh, called "on the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza," Haniyeh told The Associated Press.
On Sunday, Huwaida Arraf, one of the organizers, said the six-ship flotilla began the journey from international waters off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday afternoon after two days of delays. She said they expected to reach Gaza, about 400 kilometres away, on Monday afternoon, and that two more ships would follow in "a second wave."
"We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us," she said. "They are going to have to forcefully stop us."
Israeli frigates dispatched
After nightfall Sunday, three Israeli navy missile boats left their base in Haifa, steaming out to sea to confront the flotilla. Two hours later, Israel Radio broadcast a recording of one of the missile boats warning the flotilla not to approach Gaza.
"If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade," the radio message continued.
The al-Jazeera satellite channel reported that the ships changed course to try to avoid a nighttime confrontation, preferring a daylight showdown for better publicity.
The flotilla is trying to draw attention to Israel's three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. The ships are carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, such as cement and other building materials.
Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade on Gaza after Hamas militants violently seized control of the territory in June 2007.
Israel says the measures are needed to prevent Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets at Israel, from building up its arsenal. But UN officials and international aid groups say the blockade has been counterproductive, failing to weaken the Islamic militant group while devastating the local economy.
At Gaza's tiny port, Hamas officials, activists and foreign nationals prepared to welcome the flotilla, bobbing aboard dozens of small boats decorated with the flags of the countries of the pro-Palestinian activistsRead more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/05/30/israel-gaza.html#ixzz0pXyKZH74
Canadian Aboard Flotilla Safe, says friend

"Since the Israeli military always tries to seize the media first to destroy evidence, my job is to non-violently get in the way of the Israeli commandos in a narrow passageway for about 30 seconds so the journalists can up load their reports." The Canadian continues: "It should be interesting to say the least. I guess all my young years spent playing rugby and football are going to come in handy, IE: being able take a hard hit and keep standing and not lose my temper, but this time there's no referees." But Neish apparently didn't see what was coming.
Turkey is a NATO member & was attacked by a non-member country. Article 5 of NAT says an attack on any member is considered to bean attack on all.
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NATO has agreed to a request by Turkey and will hold a meeting on Israeli attack tomorrow.

israel attacks Gaza aid fleet

Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet
Al Jazeera's report on board the Mavi Marmara before communications were cut
Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza.
More than 10 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, the Israeli military said.
The Israeli Army Radio had earlier said that up to 16 people had been killed.
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 military said four soldiers had been wounded, two of them moderately, and claimed troops opened fire after "demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs".
Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships.
Israeli intervention
Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.
IN DEPTH


Focus: On board the Freedom Flotilla

Focus: 'The future of Palestine'

Tensions rise over Gaza aid fleet

'Fighting to break Gaza siege'

Aid convoy sets off for Gaza

Programmes: Born in Gaza

Video: Israel's Gaza PR offensive

Video: Gazan's rare family reunion abroad

Video: Making the most of Gaza's woes
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.
Meanwhile, Israeli police have been put on a heightened state of alert across the country to prevent any civil disturbances.
Protests
Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action.
Live blogging


Aftermath of Israel's attack on Gaza flotilla
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning over Monday's deaths.
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.
"(The interception on the convoy) is unacceptable ... Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has also dubbed the Israeli action as "barbaric".
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, were with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.
FROM THE BLOGS
On board the Freedom Flotilla
By Jamal Elshayyal in The Middle East Blog
But Israel had said it would 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.
It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.