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Deadly raid on Gaza aid fleet: Israeli government not releasing numbers killed, injured, arrested

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The Ottawa protest. Photo: Kim Elliott.

6 p.m. EST update: The number of people killed by Israeli commandos who stormed the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla early Monday has been estimated to be around 10, though the Israeli government has so far not named those killed or the several dozen injured.

Details remain sketchy. Earlier reports said the majority of those killed were Turkish nationals.

At least 650 uninjured activists remained with their ships as they were towed into the Israeli port of Ashod throughout the day Monday. The largest ship in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, arrived at Ashod just before 1 p.m. EST.

According to Al Jazeera, 10 Israeli soldiers were wounded in the operation, and the Israeli military released a one-minute infrared video showing rappelling soldiers descending onto the deck in the dark and some activists on board fighting back. The Israeli military say their troops opened fire after "demonstrators on board attacked the IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs."

The Al Jazeera report who had been on the Mavi Marmara said white surrender flags were raised from the ship and no gunfire was coming from passengers.

And this from the ground in Ashod:

"Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the aid ships were taken after the assault, said the Israeli army was not giving any details of who had been killed, injured or detained.

‘As soon as [the ships] land here, the goods are taken, put into a terminal, and the passengers undergo extensive security checks,' she said.

‘[They are] given the choice either to go home straight away, in which case they're being bussed to Tel Aviv airport, or if they resist deportation, they are taken to a nearby detention centre where we understand they will be for at least 72 hours.'

More than 80 activists had been detained by mid-evening, Sabine Hadad, the spokeswoman for Israel's immigration police, told AFP.

‘So far, 83 have been detained, of whom 25 have agreed to be deported. The rest are going to jail,' she said, adding that authorities were expecting ‘hundreds more' arrests through the night."

At least one Canadian is known to be part of the flotilla -- Kevin Neish of Victoria, B.C.

Others who are known to have taken part include Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, co-founder of Northern Ireland's Peace People and a veteran of the Gaza flotillas, author Henning Mankell of Sweden, Irish activist Caoimhe Butterly, who was shot in Gaza in 2002, three German MPs, and two members of the Palestinian Knesset.

Eight-five-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein decided at the last moment not to travel and remained in Cyprus, from where the flotilla left Sunday.

For more names of flotilla activists, click here.

Tens of thousands of protestors, from Istanbul, where the flotilla departed on May 22, to London to Ottawa have taken to the streets to express outrage in the attack,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Canada for meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, cancelled the remainder of his stay in Canada and returned home. He postponed meeting U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

In Israel, Haaretz newspaper columnist Bradley Burston described the Gaza siege as "Israel's Vietnam."

Burston wrote:

"A war tells a people terrible truths about itself. That is why it is so difficult to listen.


We were determined to avoid an honest look at the first Gaza war. Now, in international waters and having opened fire on an international group of humanitarian aid workers and activists, we are fighting and losing the second. For Israel, in the end, this Second Gaza War could be far more costly and painful than the first."


As of 7 a.m. EST Israeli hospital confirms that at least 19 members of the Freedom Flotilla were killed in an attack by IDF in international waters last night. Many others are injured. Nearly 600 activists were on the attacked ship.

One Canadian has been confirmed as being part of the fleet -- Kevin Neish, 53, of Victoria BC. His fate is as of yet unknown.

Protest are being organized around the world. More than 10,000 are reported to have turned out for protests in Turkey early this morning. Protests in Canada include:

Toronto: Hunger Strike and vigil, as of 7AM, 180 Bloor St

Vancouver: Protest at noon at 300 W Georgia (at Hamilton)

Learn about protests, add your own here

We will continue to update as news comes in.

 

Below is raw video from the attack recording by Press TV members on the ship. The report is in several languages.

 

 

4:30 a.m. EST UPDATE: 

-Israeli foreign ministry statement confirms more than 10 activists killed, dozens injured -- including four Israeli soldiers -- after the IDF attacked Turkish Ship Mavi Marmara and others in flotilla.

-The Isreali foreign ministry statement claims: "During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose."

-The wounded have been taken to Israeli hospitals - including four injured activists taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. One is "mortally wounded," while the remaining three are in serious condition.

-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting Canada, is considering returning to Israel instead of proceeding to Washington, D.C. for a scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama.

-Protests are planned across Canada and are taking place internationally, including in Turkey, where the flotilla set out on May 22 and in Gaza.

-The European Union has called for an inquiry into the deaths.

 

First report:

Solidarity activists aboard one of six relief vessels traveling to Gaza with humanitarian report that they have been attacked by Israeli forces, with three of their human rights volunteers killed and roughly 30 injured.

The assault comes in the wake of the flotilla being surrounded earlier today by three Israeli warships in international waters, roughly 70 miles away from the Israeli coast. The Flotilla moved further west, deeper into international waters to avoid any conflict with Israeli navy vessels, but had been concerned all night that Israeli forces would send small inflatable military boats towards the flotilla and attempt to attack and board the humanitarian vessels.

Those fears have apparently been realized, with people aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship with hundreds of aid workers and activists aboard, reporting that they have been attacked. At least three passengers have been killed and dozens more wounded. Israeli commandos apparently rappelled onto the Mavi Marmara, whose passengers range in age from 88 to a year old and include Christians, Muslims and Jews seeking to end the blockade. Midwest U.S. activists have been unable to reach Chicagoan Fatima Mohammadi, traveling aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Live video from the flotilla shows Israeli naval commando vessels pulling alongside the aid ships, and what sounds like gunfire can be heard in the background. No-one on the aid ships is carrying any kinds of weapons, including for defense against a feared Israeli attack in international waters.

Hundreds of elected officials, former diplomats, aid workers and activists - including a Nobel laureate and many European legislators -- are with the flotilla, traveling by sea to Gaza to break Israel's blockade of the tiny strip of land.

Foreign news correspondents and independent journalists are traveling aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship with hundreds of aid workers and activists aboard which is also running its own press operation.

A total of six ships, including two cargo ships and other passenger vehicles, are carrying thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to the beseiged region, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2006.

Israel has marshalled its most lethal military vessels to try to stop the humanitarian marine convoy, and at around 2:20 pm Central Standard Time (US) the first reports of unmanned drone planes buzzing the vessels was received from convoy passengers.

Two boats in the aid flotilla, one currently traveling with the convoy to Gaza and another in port in Cyprus for repairs, are flagged and registered in the United States. The ships are U.S. territory under maritime law, and the U.S. government is required to intervene if this "U.S. property" is attacked or illegally confiscated by Israeli authorities -- a tactic Israel has threatened and deployed in the past. Israel has a long history of attacking ships whose missions are deemed undesirable. In December 2008, it rammed the Dignity, carrying medical and humanitarian aid, doctors, human rights workers and a former U.S. congresswoman, without warning in international waters.

Israel intensified its 2006 blockade after attacking the area in a weeks-long assault that ended in January 2009, killing more than 1,400 and leaving thousands more homeless and reducing huge swaths of housing to rubble. The blockade has created mass unemployment and extreme poverty, leaving four out of five Gazans -- half of whom are children -- dependent on humanitarian aid.

The Freedom Flotilla carries more than 10,000 tons of relief and developmental aid to Gaza, along with roughly 700 participants from more than 30 countries, among them volunteers from Canada, South Africa, Algeria, Turkey, Macedonia, Pakistan, Yemin, Kosovo, the UK and US and Kuwait - and an exiled former Archbishop of Jerusalem who currently lives in the Vatican.

The cargo includes prefabricated homes and playgrounds, cement and other home-building supplies, medical devices and medications, textiles and food, in defiance of Israel's siege on Gaza, which restricts the entry of all materials, including food and medicine. The flotilla's supplies were gathered by a coalition of international civil society and human rights organizations to be sent directly to the people of Gaza by sea, using only international waters and the coastal waters immediately off of Gaza for passage. The flotilla is meant to arrive in Gaza as early as Monday, May 31.

Participants on board speak languages that include English, Turkish, Kurdish, over ten dialects of Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Portugeuse, French, Malaysian, Indonesian, Norweigen, Swedish, Urdu, Punjabi, Farsi, Hindi, German, Flemish, Greek, Catalon, Russian, Bosnian, Chechen, Macedonian and Albanian. Reporters on board hail from locations that include the United Kingdom, Spain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Kuwait, South Africa, Pakistan, Jordan, the Persian Gulf and across the Arab world.

Protests in support of the aid convoy have been occuring around the world since Thursday, with Chicagoans scheduled to protest again at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, June 1, in front of the Israeli consulate at 111 E. Wacker Dr. in Chicago. 

This report has come from American group Palestine Libre. At least two Canadians are part of the flotilla and rabble.ca is attempting to establish contact with them.

Meanwhile, news of the killings and a reported 30 people wounded are being disseminated via Twitter at the Israeli blogger site, Mondoweiss

Live streaming from Turkish Television here

Another report can be found in Pacific Free Press, by editor Chris Cook.

Other sources:

Al Jazeera - click here

BBC - click here

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