Monday, May 31, 2010

Gaza Aid Flotilla fired on by commandos, at least ten dead, many wounded

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. [The deaths now number 15, later reports said; official death toll is 9. Names need to be released.]

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. Tweeters aboard the ships indicated that the troops were dropped by chopper and started firing as soon as their feet hit the decks -- including at sleeping activists.

Read more on the BBC. Video footage available; Turks are stoning the Israeli consulate in Istanbul in protest against the attack on civilian activists, who included an 85 year old Holocaust survivor and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, the 1976 Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland. Most of the dead are reported to be from Turkey.

Addendum: Death count has risen now to 15, and 41 people were treated in hospital for wounds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after expressing his "full backing" for the raid, has returned to Israel and skipped a Washington meeting with US president Barack Obama, according to latest reports. Surviving activists deny that the sleeping activists had clubbed or knifed the raiding commandoes; speculation is that friendly fire amongst the Israeli forces may have set off the fighting. Six Israeli soldiers were injured during the botched raid. Unlike previous flotillas, this one had included people aboard who Israel identified as Hamas and pro-Al Qaeda. The attack happened in international waters - 60 miles offshore. See NY Times piece here and (rather tentative) Foreign Policy analysis here. Because Sheikh Raed Salah, an Israeli-Arab, is rumored to be among the casualties, analysts fear the incident may "lead to a third intifada." Organizers of the peace flotilla included Muslim Brotherhood volunteers, which alarmed some observers and irritated others. See this blogpost from Jacky Rowland, about the Monty Pyythonesque quality of the event--at least until the big guns came out.
And here's an odd report from a hack imbedded with the Israeli commandos, who reports that the naval commandoes had pistols and paint-ball rifles for sidearms, expecting "activists like at Bilin; instead, they got Bangkok!" Compare it with this file on Truthout. Will we ever know the answers?


Jan said...

The group had launched nine previous ships to Gaza, and five were permitted to pass to the territory after being searched by the Israeli navy. But that was before Bibi was heading the country.

at the edge said...

Had you seen this link yet?

I only bring it up because it sure looks like the ship's crew did the attacking, and prepared for it. Did you see the pictures of the weopons they had on board?