Activists killed in international waters Jewish Voice for Peace condemns Israel’s attack and killing of members of the Freedom Flotilla aiming to bring much needed aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. Haaretz reports that at least 10 activists have been killed. Al-Jazeera reports that as many as 16 activists are dead. The names of the dead are not yet known. The flotilla passengers included retired US diplomats Amb. Edward Peck and Col. Ann Wright, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, and former UN assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, as well as humanitarian aid and human rights workers, several Members of Parliament from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Malaysia, and Palestinian Members of the Knesset.
CALL the U.S. State Department (+1 202-647-4000, x 1) and the US Consulate in Jerusalem (+972 2 622 7207/21/30) and DEMAND that the U.S. Government take immediate action to safeguard innocent lives!
CALL White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (+1 202 456 6798) and DEMAND that the Obama Administration immediately cancel Tuesday’s scheduled visit with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, and support the creation of an unbiased international commission to investigate and hold the Israeli government accountable for the murder of unarmed civilians!
NY: 3 PM Monday, Times Square. Assemble at 47th St. and 7th Ave.
SAN FRANCISCO: 1 pm rally (Powell and Market)
CHICAGO: 4.30 pm Tuesday, Israeli Consulate (111 E. Wacker Drive)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Free Gaza Movement
Civilians Under Attack by Israel
CYPRUS – May 31 – Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep. According to the live video from the ship, two have been killed, and 31 injured. Al Jazeera has just confirmed the numbers.
Streaming video shows the Israeli soldiers shooting at civilians, and our last SPOT beacon said, “HELP, we are being contacted by the Israelis.”
We know nothing about the other five boats. Israel says they are taking over the boats.
The coalition of Free Gaza Movement (FG), European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), the Perdana Global Peace Organisation , Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden, and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza appeal to the international community to demand that Israel stop their brutal attack on civilians delivering vitally needed aid to the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza and permit the ships to continue on their way.
The attack has happened in international waters, 75 miles off the coast of Israel, in direct violation of international law.
Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country’s siege on Gaza.
At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, Israeli radio reported.
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.
Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: “This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.”
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 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 convoy.
Our correspondent said that a white surrender flag was raised from the ship and there was no live fire coming from the passengers.
Before losing communication with our correspondent, a voice in Hebrew was clearly heard saying: “Everyone shut up”.
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.
Meanwhile, Israeli police have been put on a heightened state of alert across the country to prevent any civil disturbances.
Sheikh Raed Salah,a leading member of the Islamic Movement who was on board the ship, was reported to have been seriously injured. He was being treated in Israel’s Tal Hasharon hospital.
In Um Al Faham, the stronghold of the Islamic movement in Israel and the birth place of Salah, preparations for mass demonstrations were under way.
Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning over Monday’s deaths.
Turkey, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassador’s in their respective countries to protest against the deadly assault.
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.
“(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.
The convoy came from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and was comprised of about 700 people from 50 nationalities.
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.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
Reporting from Ashdod, Mya Guarnieri said police had stopped a busload of protesters and told them to return to Tel Aviv. After half an hour being held up on the bus, the protesters joined a group that numbered 200 by 1:30.
Israeli’s gathered to voice dissent against the shooting death of at least ten Palestinian solidarity activists from some 40 nations on the Freedom Flotilla, as simultaneous protests erupt in other areas.
By 3pm, pro-army activists arrived at the port, waving Israeli flags and banners congratulating the Israeli army on the deaths, saying “All the honor to the army,” singing national songs and waving a banner with a photo of the ship saying “terror out,” as the protest appeared to lull. Border police followed the pro-army activists onto the scene, from where witnesses said they could see little of the action.
Media were also being kept away from the port, with cameras set up on a hill almost a kilometer away from the shore.
Rallies in Tel Aviv Monday night
A second mass rally was called for 7pm in Tel Aviv, outside Israel’s Ministry of Defense, with activist Uri Averny calling together the Israeli left, saying “this night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command
A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists. It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do.”
Israeli forces announced a state of high alert throughout the country and occupied Palestinian territories following their navy’s attack on the Flotilla, with Gaza crossings sealed and checkpoints expected to be operating at minimum capacity as reports say officials are considering sealing access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in light of Palestinian anger over the attack on the ships.
Guarnieri said that as protesters continued to arrive on the scene, police, border guards and naval officers appeared on the scene to corral demonstrators into a small area.
Speaking with Guarnieri upon arrival in Ashdod, Coalition of Women for Peace member Dalit Bauman called the sea-raid of the boats proof that “Israel does not care about international public opinion, it’s time for the world to do something, for Israel to know that it can’t continue to enjoy economic and diplomatic support from the western world.”
Bauman continued, saying “I think it’s very important for Israelis to be on these boats, I wish I could be there, I think this is a tremendous civic duty and I think if there is a chance that we can get closer to the people we should get as close as we can.”
About 50 protesters and media crews were gathered on the edge of the port, which is designated a closed military zone, preventing the group from meeting the boats, visible on the horizon.
Police observe Tel Aviv protesters
Guarnieri said one police van observing the gathering was joined by two others as activists arrived in a Tel Aviv’s Levinski garden, preparing to travel to the Port of Ashdod, and began questioning a bus driver preparing to transport the group.
“They were asking him his name and ID number, and questioning him as to who ordered the bus,” Guarnieri said, noting the driver was a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
Israeli activist Uri Averny said early on Monday that a protest would be held against the “bloody attack on the Gaza aid flotilla.” The demonstration was set to take place where the detained flotilla activists are held in Ashdod.
AND DEMOCRACY NOW
Interview: At Least 15 Dead After Israel Attacks Gaza-Bound Aid Flotilla
Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza strip. Dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, the ships were aiming to break Israel’s 3-year blockade of Gaza. At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured when Israeli troops attacked the lead ship in the convoy–the Turkish “Mavi Marmara”–early Monday morning. The attack happened in international waters, 75 miles off the coast of Israel and Gaza. We reached Adam Shapiro in New York a few hours after the attack. He’s a board member of the Free Gaza movement, one of the groups that coordinated the Freedom Flotilla. His wife Huwaida Arraf is the chairperson of the Free Gaza movement and is on the flotilla.
Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”
More information on the Israeli attack:
Follow #flotilla, @JamalDajani, @avinunu on Twitter for the latest updates.
The Israeli military’s attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla has sparked demonstrations in London today. Even before the massacre, there were demonstrations outside 10 Downing Street demanding freedom of passage for the aid ships.
Following the raid, which killed at least 10 peace activists in a commando assault in international waters, demonstrators began gathering at 11am, with both the Stop the War Coalition and ISM London calling a protest for 2pm at Downing Street. The demonstration has now left Downing Street and is heading for the Israeli embassy.