AUSTRALIAN PROTESTS OVER ISRAEL’S ATTACKS on GAZA FLOTILLA May 29, 2010

Melbourne rally 1 June 2010 - some 2,000 protesters attended

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HUWAIDA ARRAF recounts her experiences on the Israel flotilla raid 1 June 2010
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DEATH AT SEA: the attack on the Gaza flotilla (LIVE BLOGGING)

FREE GAZA CALLS FOR ‘OPEN, INDEPENDENT’ INVESTIGATION PBS Newshour 31 May 2010
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS – “Israel attacks aid convoy” Up to twenty human rights activists are believed to have been killed and scores injured after Israeli commandos attacked a humanitarian aid flotilla of ships this morning in international waters. One Irish activist is understood to have been injured in the assault, which focused on the lead ship of the convoy, a Turkish-registered ferry, the Mavi Marmara. The Free Gaza Movement’s Challenger 1 was also boarded by Israeli forces 130km off the coast of Gaza, en route from Cyprus. Three Irish campaigners were on board the Challenger 1 vessel which had travelled from Cyprus. It is believed one of them — Fiachra O Luain, who ran as an independent candidate in the European elections — was been injured. His condition is not known. The five Irish people on board the cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, which departed from Dundalk earlier this month, are all reported to be safe, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Most of the dead are understood to have been Turkish nationals, shot dead at point blank range amid chaotic scenes on the Mavi Marmara. Israel has imposed strict censorship on the attack while launching an extraordinary global propoganda campaign to quell international condemnation.  It put the number of fatalities at nine, but that number is expected to rise. Live-streaming video showed images of elite Israeli troops descending from helicopters at around 4am this morning and proceeded to use live ammunition against the ship’s passengers. The grainy video also showed casualties on the boat. Video released by the Israeli military showed activists used deckchairs and other items to challenge the commandoes who were firing live rounds. The attack happened as the flotilla neared an Israeli-declared ‘military exclusion zone’ in the international waters around Gaza, as the captain of the Turkish ship refused an Israeli order to turn back. The distressed organisers of the flotilla said the convoy had been ‘hijacked’ and had been being ordered at gunpoint to Israeli ports. Upon arrival, the Israeli military have stated that all Israeli participants will be arrested, Palestinians will be questioned by Israeli secret police and internationals will be deported or held in a detention centre if they contest deportation. On board the ship are hundreds of civilians — including parliamentarians — attempting to bring 10,000 tonnes of supplies and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip which has been under an illegal Israeli-imposed siege for the past three years. All the Palestinian factions were united in their condemnation, and the Palestinian Authority called it an act of piracy and declared a three-day state of mourning. Irish activists aboard the 1,200-ton cargo ship Rachel Corrie,  named after an American who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, had set sail from Dundalk earlier this month to join the convoy. Mustafa Baraghout, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council called the attack “a declaration of war on many countries, including Turkey, Sweden and Ireland”. In a statement this morning, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin said he was “gravely concerned” over the incident. He said the department was seeking to confirm the safety of the eight Irish nationals who sailed with the Turkish led flotilla. “The reports of up to 15 people killed and 50 injured, if confirmed, would constitute a totally unacceptable response by the Israeli military to what was a humanitarian mission attempting to deliver much needed supplies to the people of Gaza.” Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement that organised the convoy, said: “How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this? Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?” Dr. David Landy, Chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “This act of Israeli piracy is a clear breach of international law. The fact that Israel would allow its forces to kill and wound international human rights activists shows the world once again that Israeli is a rogue state that acts with impunity. “It is high-time for this impunity to be ended and for Israeli to be brought to account for its disregard for international law.” Dr. Landy continued: “Israel has claimed that it no longer occupies Gaza. If this is the case, then why did they prevent this humanitarian aid flotilla from reaching Gaza? The hypocrisy of the Israeli state is simply astounding, and it is time for the international community to take serious action against Israel. We demand justice both for those murdered today and the Palestinian people for whom such acts are, unfortunately, commonplace.” 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen has called for an international inquiry into the Israeli attack. He said he believed Israel’s blockade of humanitarian assistance to Gaza was illegal under international law. “Whilst the Irsaeli government has withdrawn from Gaza, they remain a de facto occupying force since they decide what gets into Gaza and who getsout of it,” he said. “I believe that the cause of this problem relates directly to the fact that there is a humanitarian blockade. I believe that is in violation of international law. People are entitled to have humanitarian assistance.” The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign called a protest for this evening at 6pm, assembling at the Spire on O’Connell Street, Dublin 1 which will then march to the Israeli Embassy in Ballsbridge. Speakers at the event will be Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh and Fianna Fail’s Chris Andrews, both of whom said they were refused access to the flotilla by the Cypriot authorities. Mr O Snodaigh condemned the attack and called on Mr Martin to expel the Israeli ambassador. “It looks as though this cold and calculated attack took place in international waters, in breach of all international maritime laws. There must be action from the international community,” the Sinn Fein TD said. “At all stage of preparations to join the flotilla the organisers reiterated non-violent and peaceful resistance to any boarding by Israeli army. The Israelis had nothing to fear from this flotilla.” Mr Andrews said he was “deeply shocked but sadly not surprised” by today’s events. “Israel has proven repeatedly that it believes itself to be above international law, evidenced by the fact that it carried out these attacks in International waters,” he said. “I have just spent a week with several of the people who were on board these boats and I can say with absolute certainty these people were only concerned with peacefully bringing badly needed aid to the region.” Irish Congress of Trade Unions president Jack O’Connor and general secretary David Begg issued a joint statement condemning the assault. “The people on those boats were civilians engaged in peaceful humanitarian work, bringing much needed aid to the Gaza Strip and were no threat to anyone,” they said. “To launch a military assault on a humanitarian convoy is beyond the bounds of all that is acceptable and should be judged as such by the international community. The assault was akin to the actions of a rogue state.” Amnesty International also called for an inquiry. Noeleen Hartigan, programmes director for Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Israeli forces clearly appear to have used excessive force. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defence, alleging that protesters attacked them, but it seems incredible that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have possibly been justified. Ms Hartigan called for a “credible and independent” investigation into the killings and said Amnesty had asked Minister Micheal Martin to make this clear to the Israeli ambassador when he meets him this afternoon.” “The blockade does not target armed groups. It punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” she said. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described the Israeli attack as “murderous”. “The response of the international community must be firm and resolute. “Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people must change. “This Israeli action must be condemned by all governments and political leaders who believe in democracy, peace, security and the standing of international law. “My thoughts are with the families of those who died in this outrageous attack.” There were widespread calls by left-wing and progressive Irish organisations for people to join protests against the latest Israeli killings. “All right-thinking countries should withdraw their diplomatic representatives immediately in protest at this war crime,” the General Secretary of Republican Sinn Fein, Josephine Hayden said. “We urge to the people of Ireland to show their disgust at this unwarranted attack on innocent civilian volunteers by attending protests and boycotting Israeli goods. LIVE STREAMING OF LAST 120 MILES To GAZA LATEST  REPORTS: Israeli masked gunmen board boats – 16 killed, more than 60 injured, people shouting please don’t shoot we are unarmed. Israeli warships have captured all boats in the flotilla.  THE SITUATION IS CRITICAL.  EVERYBODY NEEDS TO CONTACT THEIR GOVERNMENTS AND THE MEDIA TO CONDEMN THESE MURDEROUS ATTACKS. “Israel attacks aid convoy, killing at least 16 activists”  -  Today’s Zaman -  31 May 2010 Israeli naval commandos brutally attacked an international aid convoy intending to bring humanitarian supplies to the long-besieged Gaza city and killed more than a dozen civilians while the convoy was sailing on international waters. Early Monday morning, as it has threatened several times as the aid flotilla set sail for Gaza, Israel intercepted the convoy of vessels carrying hundreds of activists from around the world and some 10,000 tones of humanitarian aid, possibly causing an irreversible damage to Turkish-Israeli relations, foreign ministry said in a statement released a few hours after the attack. International community has earlier warned Israel not to engage in an offensive on civilian vessels full of peaceful activists whose aim is to break the three-year-old economic blockade on Gaza which has severely plagued its people. Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Israeli consulate in İstanbul to show reaction against the violent intervention. Thousands of Gazans who were expecting a helping hand from committed civilians but later learned of the attack also gathered at the port of Gaza, carrying Palestinian flags and banners read “End to Israeli persecution.” “We were not expecting such an operation in international waters,” Ömer Faruk Korkmaz, an official of the Humanitarian Aid Association (İHH) that led the aid shipment in Turkey said. “Israel has been caught red-handed and the international community will not forgive it.” Korkmaz said the ship was being escorted to Haifa. “I was expecting an intervention,” said Murat Mercan, Turkish parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman. “I was not expecting bloodshed, the use of arms and bullets.” “Israel is engaged in activity that will extremely hurt its image,” he said. Turkey summoned the Israeli ambassador to the foreign ministry to discuss the incident. “Israel has clearly indicated once again that it snubs human life and peaceful initiatives by targeting innocent civilians. We severely condemn Israel’s inhumane practices. The sorrowful incident that occurred in international waters and constitute a grave violation of international law may lead to irreversible consequences for our relations,” read the foreign ministry’s statement, adding that Israel will have to stand the consequences of its intervention. Turkish ministers and high-level officials convened at the Prime Ministry in Ankara following the Israeli offensive. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınc, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, Prime Ministry Undersecretary Efkan Ala, General Staff Operations Commander Gen. Mehmet Eröz, Naval Forces Vice Commander Adm. Nusret Güner, and bureaucrats are participating in the meeting. LATEST REPORT FROM ABC NEWS “Israeli ships attack aid flotilla” by Tia Goldenberg Israeli warships attacked at least one of the six ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid for blockaded Gaza, killing at least two and wounding an unknown number of people on board, an Arabic satellite service and a Turkish TV network reported early Monday. The Israeli military refused to comment on the report. The al-Jazeera satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy 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!” 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, condemned the “brutal” Israeli attack. “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,” 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 250 miles (400 kilometers) away, on Monday afternoon, and that two more ships would follow in “a second wave.” The flotilla was “fully prepared for the different scenarios” that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would “do what’s right” and not stop the convoy, she said. “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.” After nightfall Sunday, three Israeli navy missile boats left their base in Haifa, steaming out to sea to confront the activists’ ships. 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, which includes three cargo ships and three passenger ships, is trying to draw attention to Israel’s three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. The boats are carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials. The activists said they also were carrying hundreds of electric-powered wheelchairs, prefabricated homes and water purifiers. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that after a security check, permitted humanitarian aid confiscated from the boats will be transferred to Gaza through authorized channels. However, Israel would not transfer items it has banned from Gaza under its blockade rules. Palmor said that for example, cement would be allowed only if it is tied to a specific project. This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.

Israel has let ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers in January 2009. The flotilla bound for Gaza is the largest to date. Some 700 pro-Palestinian activists are on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor. The mission has experienced repeated delays, both due to mechanical problems and a decision by Cyprus to bar any boat from sailing from its shore to Gaza. The ban forced a group of European lawmakers to depart from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern part of the island late Saturday. Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade on Gaza after Hamas militants violently seized control of the seaside 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 U.N. officials and international aid groups say the blockade has been counterproductive, failing to weaken the Islamic militant group while devastating the local economy. In particular, the ban on building materials has prevented Gazans from repairing thousands of homes that were damaged or destroyed in an Israeli military offensive, meant to stop Hamas rocket attacks, early last year. Israel rejects claims of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying it allows more than enough food and medicine into the territory. The Israelis also point to the bustling smuggling industry along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which has managed to bring consumer goods, gasoline and livestock into the seaside strip. Israel has condemned the flotilla as a provocation and vowed to block it from reaching Gaza. Palmor said foreigners on the ships would be “sent back to their countries.” Activists who did not willingly agree to be deported would be detained. A special detention facility has been set up in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.

At Gaza’s tiny port, meant for small fishing boats, Hamas officials, activists and foreign nationals prepared to welcome the flotilla, sitting in some 40 small boats that were bobbing in the sea and decorated with the flags of the countries of the pro-Palestinian activists, including Turkey and Algeria. In other boats, Gaza boy scouts played music, while on shore, other activists released balloons with the faces of Palestinian civilians and militants killed in battles with Israeli forces. In Syria, eight Damascus-based Palestinian groups urged Arab and Muslim states to work to support the flotilla and warned Israel against committing any “foolishness to impede the vessels” “This could create more tension and trigger unpredictable reactions,” said the groups, which included Hamas and the militant Islamic Jihad. ———

Associated Press writer Menalaos Hadjicostis contributed to this report from Nicosia, Cyprus.

LATEST VIDEO: Freedom flotilla on way to Gaza 30 May 2010

LATEST UPDATE

LATEST REPORT: Flotilla welcomed by Israeli war ships 31 May 2010

(Cyprus, May 31, 2010) At 11:00 pm Cyprus time and in international waters off the coast of Israel, the boats were contacted by the Israeli navy. “Who are you and where are you going?” Our reply was that we were part of a flotilla and we were going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies.

On the radar, the boats could see three Israeli war ships shadowing us, and 15 minutes later, a silent aircraft hovered over the flotilla. One of our Hebrew speakers had found Israel’s strategy and posted it to us. It stated, “You will be boarded by highly trained, very efficient and very SILENT commandos. They will use silent inflatable boats to get to our boats and both try to board our boats directly from the inflatables and by dropping divers into the water to climb onto the boats,” so people were preparing for them to come up and over the sides of the ships.

Our SPOT locator has sent out several HELP messages at www.witnessgaza.com <http://www.witnessgaza.com> .

Lubna Marsawa, Free Gaza’s organizer on the Turkish passenger boat said in outrage, “Very few times in history has a flotilla delivering humanitarian goods been welcomed by military war ships.”

This is a call to the world from the people on the boats. “We are a civilian people doing what our governments have refused to do, challenge Israel’s right to collectively punish 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza by blockading their right to their own sea. This flotilla is bringing construction and educational supplies the people of Gaza and are being met by Israeli warships.”

Contact: Huwaida Arraf on board the Challenger 0088 216 5207 2093
Ewa Jasciewica on board the Challenger 0088 163 184 7926
Fatima Mohammed on board the IHH ship 8821636619168

Greta Berlin 00 357 99 18 72 75
Mary Hughes 00 357 96 38 38 09

Check out this site, find the Israeli embassy nearest you and let them know how you feel.
http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Israel


Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75
witnessgaza.com <http://witnessgaza.com>
www.freegaza.org <http://www.freegaza.org>
http://www.flickr.com/photos/freegaza

REPORT: ‘We’re on our way’ by Greta Berlin 29 May 2010

After tremendous pressure from the Greek Cypriots, reneging on their agreement with us, we were forced to take our MPs and activists to Famagusta yesterday, on the Turkish/Cypriot side of Cyprus. We spent all day going from one port to the next, surrounded by helicopters and police. Clearly our deal with Cyprus officials had fallen through, and we ended up being pawns in a political soap opera. The Cypriot members of Parliament, the ones who had worked so hard to get us permission to leave, were outraged. The Greek Parliament members finally told us to go to the North. If they could, they would. The Cypriot government said they made their decision because, “The Republic of Cyprus is fighting for its survival” but it didn’t bow to pressure from Israel. As they said this, they bowed their heads.

We made a deal with the Cypriot government that we would board our high-profile passengers and members of Parliament from Cyprus. We would board with no media coverage. We would not bring our boats into Cyprus. We would take small boats out to our own ships and board past the 12-mile territorial limit.

Authorities mandated that we couldn’t even do that, essentially telling us that, even if we board small boats anywhere in Greek Cyprus from any port, we could not travel outside their territorial limits to go to Gaza. Twenty-seven people were supposed to board, including 9 Cypriots and two Greeks. None of them could come with us as we went North.

Then our two passenger boats mysteriously had mechanical problems at the same time, 3:30 pm. Challenger 2 was able to get 14 delivered to the IHH ship, then limped into the harbor in Limassol after being harassed by Cypriot helicopters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjGoe3Gi-ns&feature=player_embedded, essentially forbidding us to bring our wounded boat into port.

Our other boat, Challenger 1 headed toward Famagusta with 16 passengers. It, too, was wounded, something wrong with the steering.

By the time we were jerked around yesterday. We had started at 7:00 am.  By 10:00 pm, we had nowhere to board, and our boats were out of commission.

But we all have Gaza fever, and no one was giving up.

It has taken us all day to find someone on the Turkish side to ferry some of our passengers out to the flotilla who have been patiently waiting five hours away from Cyprus. At 6:00 pm, 20 of our passengers left for the flotilla, and the Swedish MP and the three German MPs are on board. Hedy is not, and we are heartsick that, once again, she will not be able to go to Gaza.

The flotilla leaves for Gaza early in the morning and should arrive tomorrow afternoon. We have persevered… Al Samoud.

Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75
witnessgaza.com
www.freegaza.org
http://www.flickr.com/photos/freegaza

VIDEO: JEFF HALPER: ISRAEL KEEPS PALESTINIANS A CENTIMETRE ABOVE THE LINE OF STARVATION
VIDEO: ISRAEL’S GAZA PR OFFENSIVE

‘A battle for the high seas. And the high ground’ by Lauren Booth, 29 May 2010

If you’re hoping to see news about the extraordinary events taking place in the Med sea around Cyprus on either the BBC or Sky this weekend. Forget it. For now. Despite the fact that almost three dozen Brits are amongst the 700 brave souls heading to Gaza on a fleet of ships laden with essential aid. Or the incredible military and political manoeverings surrounding Israels response to the peaceful attempt, major news channels in the West remain silent. This despite the fact their news editors have the direct numbers of spokespeopleon board and access to the live news feed.

After calls to newsrooms across the UK it is clear to me that the first ever sea bound fleet of international aid to Palestine is not of itself a big enough story for our media – until if fails. On Israel’s terms.  The BBC has been taking some 200 calls in an hour from viewers wanting news of the mission – to no avail.  So what’s going on?
The news agenda has been decided in advance that’s what. Dictated by the well oiled Israeli propaganda machine being nothing if not helpful to all tiers for foreign press right now.

I speak to Greta Berlin, in Cyprus, an organiser of the Freegaza Movement about the BBC’s attitude that ‘nothing is happening.’ She tells me ‘I just got off the phone with the BBC in Jerusalem. They want to send a camera crew to Ashdod. It was all I could do to tell them they will be in the wrong place!!’

Ashdod. Yes you guessed it; the port in ‘Israel’ where, its military have previously towed Freegaza boats and where now makeshift detention centres are supposedly waiting for the activists of the Freedom Fleet.

Right now, the flotilla teams from Turkey, Ireland, Sweden and beyond are battling all kinds of last minute difficulties. As Israel has been busy with its own ‘goodwill’ campaign. At an impromptu press conference given by the army department in charge of supposedly delivering goods into Gaza, the message was simple; ‘the flotilla is unnecessary as there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.’ Journalists have been taken on a tour of the Karem Abu Salem crossing, virtually the only crossing into Gaza that goods still pass through. Fact sheets handed to journalists outlining the’thousands of tonnes of food’ that enters the strip each year. The problem being with these impressively large looking numbers is that nowhere was there, a handy graph of what is ‘allowed’ in to feed the 1.8million Palestinians of Gaza and what is actually needed by the malnourished populace.

According to the army 156,000 tones of food has been delivered in the last six months. That’s roughly 4kg per Gazan per week. A tiny amount compared to what you and I get through, but far, far worse is the quality of the crap that Israel pours into the region. The kind of fizzy drinks, low vitamin junk food that if eaten on its own, without the requisite fruit and veg for a healthy diet- still leads the consumer to be malnourished.

But let’s get back to the fleet of ships and Israel’s devil and the deep blue sea, moment.
Some of you may believe that rather like the infamous London football supporters of Millwall, Israel’s regime is happy to inhabit the world stage with the political equivalent of the chant ‘nobody likes us we don’t care doo dah doo dah!’ In fact nothing could be farther from the truth. For like all bullies the Zionist regime is agonised by dislike. It simply cannot stand not to be loved. Altogether ‘Ahhh.’

It asks us time and again as it attacks unarmed villagers in the West Bank and school children in Gaza, to believe that as a state, Israel denounces violence and acts in a controlled military manner, purely (indeed solely) for self defence. Understand this core system of lies and you will understand the current complex machinations the Israeli government is undertaking to avoid an armed stand off with the Freedom Fleet tomorrow or Monday. A stand off it is however, fully in preparation to win. The Israeli navy, the fifth most powerful and heavily armed on the planet, is itching to blow the Turkish led fleet out of the water. Its comrades onland would just love to duff up and arrest all those onboard. What they don’t want is the bad press this would get them in this post Goldstone world. So. What to do?
Israel has said it is determined to intercept and search the vessels, then tow them to an Israeli port.
Israel has prepared a makeshift detention center in its southern port of Ashdod, and officials have said the activists sailing on the ships face deportation or arrest.
“We will not let this flotilla get through. It harms Israeli security,” Israel TV’s Channel 10 quoted Ayalon as saying.

The ground work then has been laid for a violent boarding of the vessels in international waters. Ground work to allow its idiot supporters to say, it didn’t want such a thing and tried to avoid it. Thus, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, reiterated Saturday that the ships would be intercepted, denouncing the sea convoy as a ‘provocation and violation of maritime laws’.

Still, the aid convoy poses a serious dilemma that was debated at the highest levels of the Israeli government this week.
Scenes of Israeli naval commandos taking over vessels with aid shipments and detaining high-profile activists would further harm Israel’s image. This must be balanced with the determination in Tel Aviv to avoid setting a precedent and eroding the blockade by letting the vessels dock in Gaza.

Back to this weekends events. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Gal held a round of pressurised calls with foreign ministers from countries whose citizens are participating in the flotilla, and also with foreign diplomats on Thursday.
ON entering waters near Cyprus the fleet were disappointed, though unsurprised to find themselves turned away by the port authorities. Yet they need to both refuel and pick up important VIP passengers for the final leg to Gaza. The complex system of alliances and counter-alliances of the Middle East has been used by Israel’s diplomatic team to good effect. It is unclear if it will  be terminal to the mission as yet.
The Cypriot government did not allow smaller boats to carry the group to the flotilla. Organizers must now find a way to have two dozen would-be passengers, including 19 European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, to join the ships anchored in international waters off the island. Greta Berlin said; ‘our two passenger boats have had mechanical problems under suspicious circumstances, both are now out of order- at the same time and pretty much in the same place. They are unable to go’. Mossad dark ops yet again in operation.
Last week and Israeli government source quoted in the regional press said “Israel will try to pick off the boats before they even join the flotilla.” Success!
Their second success is that according to my latest news from Cyprus, Hedy Epstein, the wonderful, brave, lady in her eighties whose parents died in the Holocaust will now not make the journey.
Success two for Israel.
Authorities in Cyprus have been amazingly upfront in admitting their reasons for making the journey of the humanitarian mission so hard. Saying the decision was made to protect the island’s “vital interests” — including economic ties with Israel.
Success three to Israel!
Organizers have since appealed to the Turkish government to get the group out via a Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus port. Turkish Cypriot officials have said they want to help the group as much as they can. The rest of the Freegaza Movement passengers are right now being transferred from Famaghusta at GMT 1700 on the 29th June.

A diplomatic tangle and mechanical problems have forced the flotilla to shrink from eight ships to five.

To add to this Ameen Abu Rashid, a member of the campaign, one of the founders of the fleet of freedom’s coalition, said that the Israeli authorities, are trying to disrupt the means of  wireless communication which is used between ships. Just as the ships attempt to rendezvous avoiding the pre-defined lanes of the ships.

The final tier of Israel’s attempts to disrupt the fleets mission of mercy and avoid yet another bloody PR own goal, are to use its mad right wing elements. Yes the loonies the Zionist regime tells Obama it despises, yet funds and considers its outriders for God.

Six StandWithUsInternaitonal boats departed yesterday from the port of Ashdod on Friday, May 28 at 1pm. Each including journalists from major international outlets.  The boats had a massive banner draped on the side “FREE GAZA FROM HAMAS.” Those on board were wearing blood-stained t-shirts that say “FREE GAZA FROM HAMAS.”  SWU handed out copies of it’s (version of) the Hamas charter booklet. They did on-board interviews in English, Spanish and Hebrew. They carried signs to “Release Gilad Shalit.” This has become a duel at sea of facts versus propaganda,” said the far right Jewish flotilla organizer Roman Baron.

Speaking from the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, Viva Palestina’s Kevin Ovenden outlined some of the concerns and realities currently been faced by over 750 people on board the 9 ships sailing towards Gaza.
“People are very aware that the Israeli authorities and indeed others are playing all sorts of mind games, with threats alternating with so called offers, which would include surrendering the aid into Israeli hands, something which the participants of the flotilla find entirely unacceptable”
The last of the ships departed from Turkey at midnight on Thursday night, and they are all currently in International waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Their journey is faced with incredible danger, given the threats that have been issued by the Israeli Government. They have stated that they will stop this Flotilla at all costs, even by force if necessary. Their safety is in grave danger, and the time has come for the international community to stand up for their safety and well being.
The Flotilla needs our help to succeed. And it must!

Lauren Booth
Broadcaster and Journalist
Mail on Sunday
Press TV, UK

Aid convoy puts Israel in tight spot vis-a-vis international community
Today’s Zaman -  29 May 2010

Israel has said the situation in Gaza is not a humanitarian catastrophe and that it will prevent a convoy of aid ships carrying hundreds of volunteers from around the world from docking at a port in the narrow strip, where residents, according to the United Nations and well-known international aid organizations, are struggling to survive.

As the eight ships, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla and carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, approach their intended destination in the Mediterranean Sea, Israel has come out with its military power, threatening to force the ships to dock at an Israeli port where Palestinian and Israeli passengers will be interrogated and all others sent back to their countries of origin if they offer no resistance. The stark choice ahead of them is to leave the country or go to jail, Israel says, adding that the aid will be delivered to UN agencies after a security inspection of its contents.

The aim of the flotilla is to break the harsh three-year Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade put in place in June 2007, when Hamas took over the territory after being elected to govern in the 2006 elections. The blockade was enforced to put pressure on Hamas and stop weapons from being smuggled into the area.

In the past week the commander of the Israeli navy, Adm. Eliezer Marom, oversaw a series of drills simulating the boarding of ships and the transfer of passengers to shore, the military said, adding that it would make every effort to avoid using force against the flotilla but that naval commandos and attack dogs were prepared for a military confrontation if necessary.

Israel also launched a PR campaign to prove that Gaza residents are not fighting for their survival. “There is no shortage of fuel, there is no shortage of medication, there is no shortage of any necessities in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch said on Thursday. The European Parliament (EP), UN, Amnesty International (AI) and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), however, do not agree with the Israeli authorities’ argument.

Cecilia Goin from the ICRC’s Jerusalem office told Today’s Zaman that the plight of people in Gaza continues and is even becoming more painful as time elapses under the severe blockade. “There are major humanitarian concerns in the city about healthcare, water sanitization, and unemployment and poverty. People in Gaza certainly continue to suffer because of the restrictions,” she said, underlining that “the situation is deteriorating in terms of healthcare because the system cannot provide the care many patients need.” Goin also said the patients sometimes had to wait for up to a year to have surgery just because the broken medical equipment cannot be fixed without parts that cannot be brought into the city because of the blockade.

In a statement released on Thursday, the UN also called for an end to Israel’s blockade and expressed “concern at the insufficient flow of material through legitimate crossing points to meet basic needs, begin reconstruction and revive economic life.”

A delegation of nine members from the EP who recently visited the strip also concluded “that the siege has completely isolated the people of Gaza, condemning them to a life of extreme poverty.” The delegation also urged an immediate end to the blockade. “The blockade must be lifted in order to allow full access to humanitarian assistance, to enable reconstruction and to give a new lease of life to legitimate economic activity and hope to the population,” it underlined.

Approached by Today’s Zaman, AI voiced concern about the fate of the activists, in addition to calling on Israel to end its blockade on Gaza and also on the international community to ensure that the blockade, which AI regards as “collective punishment of a civilian population,” is ended.

“Amnesty International is concerned by the possibility of arrests of activists protesting against the blockade and is following the situation closely,” a statement released by the NGO read.

Boats carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza aim to break Israel’s years-long siege of the Gaza Strip. The vessels plan to arrive at their intended destination today.

Taking into account the things most needed in Gaza, the flotilla’s organizers say they have loaded the ships with some of the hardest items to procure, such as cement, lumber and high-end medical equipment, which are eagerly being awaited by victims of Israel’s harsh restrictions.

“We are hopeful these ships will reach the Gaza Strip. It’s a humanitarian mission that flouts the siege,” said Yousef Rizqa, deputy prime minister of the Hamas government, on Thursday.

Among the 750 passengers from 50 countries are 25 lawmakers from a dozen European countries and the European Parliament, Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, former US Congresswoman Cynthia Ann McKinney and even a Holocaust survivor in her 80s.

Activists to resist likely Israeli interference

Carrying some 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies, the eight ships, three of which joined the flotilla from Turkey, are expected to be at the port of Gaza at around 9 a.m. on Saturday, if no major incident occurs.

Turkish parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Murat Mercan said he hopes this aid reaches Gaza but expressed frustration over the failure of diplomatic attempts to avoid possible tension. “If diplomatic attempts were successful, those ships would have been greeted by flowers,” he said, adding that “Israel should not have made the same mistake it made last year by launching the offensive on Gaza on another Saturday.”

Israel’s 22-day Operation Cast Lead, which began on Dec. 27, 2008, left 1,434 dead and 5,303 others injured, with 960 of the dead civilians and more than 400 women and children.

The Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), which mobilized people in Turkey to donate to the ships, has established a crisis management desk in İstanbul to follow, note and report the developments regarding the fate of the flotilla.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Serkan Nergis from the İHH’s crisis management desk reiterated that the ships were only carrying humanitarian aid and committed volunteers who were touched by the ongoing tragedy in the Gaza Strip. “These ships are not going to an Egyptian or an Israeli port. The target here is Gaza, which is Palestinian soil. There is not even a single penknife onboard, let alone weaponry, and it is more than apparent because customs procedures were applied to all of the eight ships in Greece and in Turkey,” he added.

Nergis further argued that the passengers onboard were going to passively resist any Israeli attempt to forcefully board their ships to take them to an Israeli port for arrest or deportation. “Their morale and motivation could not be better. Israel has launched a campaign to psychologically deter them from doing what they set sail for, assisting the people of Gaza in their struggle to survive, but this campaign is bound to fail thanks to this international civilian solidarity against persecution,” he said.


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