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Israeli commandoes have stormed a flotilla of ships carrying activists and aid supplies to the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing as many as as 16 of those on board.
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent and Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem
Published: 7:21AM BST 31 May 2010
Fighting broke out between the activists and the masked Israeli troops, who rappelled on to deck from helicopters before dawn.
A spokesman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin, said she had been told that ten people had been killed and dozens wounded, accusing Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. But an Israeli radio station said that between 14 and 16 were dead in a continuing operation.
“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?
“We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”
The Israeli government’s handling of the confrontation was under intense international pressure even as it continued. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Ankara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.
One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio.
But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.
Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.
“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” they were quoted by a news website as saying.
The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from northern, or Turkish, Cyprus.
Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, which carried 600 activists from around the world, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976.
It came under almost immediate monitoring from Israeli drones and the navy, with two vessels flanking it in international waters. The flotilla, which had been warned that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to slow and change course, hoping to prevent a confrontation until daylight, when the Israeli military action could be better filmed.
But in the early hours of this morning local time commandoes boarded from helicopters.
The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish television channels show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets striking commandoes with sticks.
The Israeli army said its troops were assaulted with axes and knives.
The television footage did not show firing but shots could be heard in the background. One man was shown lying unconscious on the deck, while another man was helped away.
A woman wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf, was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood.
The al-Jazeera broadcast stopped with a voice shouting in Hebrew: “Everyone shut up”.
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the strip was taken over by the militant group Hamas in 2007. It has allowed some food and medical supplies through, but has prevented large-scale rebuilding following the bombardment and invasion of 2008-9.
The flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break through the blockade. The boats were carrying food and building supplies.
Activists said at least two of the other boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded from Israeli naval vessels. Activists said two of the other boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.
The confrontation took place in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast.
It was attacked by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
“We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., 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,” he said.
Turkish television meanwhile showed hundreds of protesters trying to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with what had been seen as its closest ally in the Muslim world.
“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.
“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.”
Author: Shahidul Alam
Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world.
Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography.
Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society.
John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”
View all posts by Shahidul Alam
3 thoughts on “Israeli troops kill flotilla activists”
Enough is enough !
Wake up US, UK or you will find the Zionist scar will transform into incurable cancer.
ISRAEL the father of all terror has just crossed the limit of human tolerances and should be isolated and taken into justice.
Wake up US, UK and open up ……
The one thing no one seems to mention or talk about much here is the reasons why the US and the UK and others do not condemn the attacks by Israel. Let’s make it clear that the direct condemnation against the state of Israel is in direct succinct action leading to condemning the next action which in turn with the first begins the distancing of allies protecting Israel. This action in turn leads to two things. One, the attention to Israel’s enemies that it is not as strong as it was or backed up militarily and politically by stronger forces. Two, the almost amicable responsibility by the state of Israel to stand alone in the middle east which in turn leaves the US without a direct ally in the region. One which by the way they have now discarded in their silence and is a NATO ally, Turkey. The NATO agreement clearly stipulates that an attack on a member state is an attack on all member states.
?How in hell does this artificially concocted child of European guilt and American ambition get away with all this again and again and again?”
The answer is that instead of being a strange historical aberration “Israel” may well be a model state that global elites want to establish to control the world in the days to come.
A world where the forces of the militarized State can routinely shoot anybody, even entire populations and call them ?terrorists? with complete impunity.
You , Shahidulda, just expressed your anger. I am outrageous.We are outrageous.
Just to write these few lines I needed a space and my colleague has given the space but inviting me he started playing the ‘ International’and it’s an obvious result to introspect with a simple question ” Where is Obama?”
I remember, once I was flying to USA to meet my family, via Fankfurt, it was a long wait. Learned from Shahidulda to utilise ( showing spell check sign because it is missing American Zee ) the time in the airports by connecting yourself with the world through the internet.Perhaps, the most globalised tool to negotiate with west.But the west always live in denial of others. They create a ‘morality’a space which declines the society to go downhill towards a characterless nation.
Let me go back to Frankfurt in 2004 again where there were no volcanic ashes disrupting the flights made to suffer the people, most of them who do not belong to the Majority World. So, where was Obama? And where is Obama?