June 04, 2010
Three Pakistanis, including TV anchor and columnist for Express Tribune Talat Hussain, who were detained by Israel following the brutal Israeli army raid on Freedom Flotilla, arrived in Islamabad on Friday.
After a warm welcome, Talat thanked the journalist community, organizations and people from cross sections of the society for this respect and the prayers for their safe arrival.
Talat Hussain, said that he and his team “had seen death from very close,” as Israeli commandoes boarded the boat and fired indiscriminately.
“They started firing and two people died close to where I was,”
said Hussain, who arrived in Lahore on Thursday.
Hussain said that he and his team had gone to Turkey to board the peace flotilla “because we thought it would be our only chance to visit Gaza and also set foot on the land with which so much Muslim history is attached.” He said that the plan was not to get into any confrontation with anyone.
The AAJ TV staffer also rejected Israeli allegations that there were guns on board the boats.
“There were no weapons on board,”
said Hussain as he was flanked by several newsmen. He said that the Israeli troops had stopped them in international waters and then took them into Israel where they were charged with illegal entry.
Hussain said that he was not happy to be the news as against report it. He said that his only fear as he was kept in confinement by the Israeli authorities was that the true of story of what happened on the peace flotilla would not be told to the world.
The website democracynow.org gives a vivid, and by far the most authentic, video account of Israel’s attack on the main ship of the freedom flotilla carrying over 600 passengers including an eight-month-old baby.
The video is one of the many that are likely to come out in the weeks ahead captured by those who witnessed recent history’s most audacious insult to efforts to highlight the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians stranded in the Gaza Strip. It shows bullets being fired from the boats carrying Israeli commandos as they make a vain attempt to climb up the Mavi Marmara. It depicts passengers, including foreigners and an Arab member of Knesset, (the Israeli parliament), wade through staircases and corridors filled with the injured. As doctors make desperate efforts to revive those shot in the head or in the chest from close range, blood-splattered walls furnish cold testimony to the methods the Israelis used to take control of the ship: anyone who stood in the way to taking over the control room — which they eventually did in a little over an hour — had to be eliminated.
The video is filmed by a journalist who left banking for the electronic media and presently works in New York. For a brief period when we were prison mates he told me about the effort he had to make to preserve the video: at least a one hour video of the attack was transferred on to a chip measuring half an inch, safely tucked in a special slot in his underwear. He took a grave risk: the Israelis would have strung him upside down if they had found what he was up to. They had strip-searched all of us to ensure that we did not carry any pictures on us. He told me how he wanted to come on this journey because that was good for his budding career but as he saw the devastation caused by Israeli actions, his motive changed from a mere professional concern to angry defiance against Israeli impunity.
Others were not so lucky with their efforts to slip out of the ship, vital evidence of Israeli’s criminal conduct on international waters. Among the injured there were two Indonesians, both camera men, one shot near the collar bone and another in the arm he was holding the camera with. I had spent nearly 10 days with them starting from our journey in Istanbul. The Malaysians and the Indonesian combined had a large contingent, over a dozen, which included a female reporter as well. Deeply religious and belonging to the Tablighee side of Islam, some of them, including the one who got shot in the arm, would spend long hours praying and reciting the Quran.
Not exactly active in his pursuit of news on the ship, he was standing in the corner filming the attack as it unfolded when he was knocked out by a sniper. On the upper deck, as mayhem spread I saw two men fall to bullets — the sound of which is amply recorded in the Democracy Now video.
I had been in these situations before. I had enough experience to know that these were all sniper shots. No random bullet pierces the forehead’s center or rips through the heart. If there was any doubt about how these passengers had been killed it was removed when a cameraman who was leaning against me as we both attempted to record the events fell back on me with a bullet wound in his arm.
Israelis knew who they had to kill to keep the lid on their beastly actions: the journalists topped the list.
Fortunately, the Israeli system is not foolproof and there is enough evidence floating around to pinpoint responsibility. At any rate each individual who was on the ship is an eyewitness who can blow away the pack of lies Israel, its global backers and a patently one-sided western media are churning out. For a change truth is holding the field of public opinion long misled by propaganda.
The Pakistani journalist Syed Talat Hussain witnessed Israeli commandoes murdering international peace activists on the Mavi Marmara on May 31. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mahtab Bashir
ISLAMABAD: Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan Hazem Hussain Abu Shanab on Monday said that an international resolution is needed to condemn the brutal action of Israeli commandos on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine peace activists were killed and several others wounded. He said the cooperation of OIC, UNO, EU and Arab League was required in this regard.
“I want to convey the voice of millions of Palestinians who become hostage by ruthless Israeli forces,” he said, addressing a joint news conference with Pakistani journalist Syed Talat Hussain who was given welcome reception by National Press Club (NPC).
Extending solidarity on behalf of Palestinian nation, the envoy thanked Pakistani government, journalists and people who anyhow were supporting freedom movement of Palestine.
“Today we are celebrating the freedom of 700 hostages of aid flotilla from the occupation Israeli army. The entire Palestinian nation was waiting of to celebrate their freedom from the occupation of same brutal force,” Shanab said.
The people of Palestine wanted ’freedom’ like people of other sovereign nations were enjoying. We are human beings. We want peace, we love peace and we want only freedom from Israel occupation not aid from international community, he added.
Palestinian Ambassador also announced that following the special directives issued by President Mehmood Abbas, honorary nationality has been awarded to Pakistan journalist Syed Talat Hussain.
Talat Hussain while narrating the ruthless action of Israeli commandos on freedom flotilla said the event was horrific and hostages had to face humiliation they never come across. He rejected the Israeli allegations that all on board were terrorist and said all the 700 passengers on heading towards Palestine were peacekeepers from across the glob. “one can easily judge the miseries of Palestinians that we witnessed for one and half hour” he deplored.
Talat announced that the victims of flotilla aid ships have decided to sue Israel for meting inhuman and barbaric action in the limits of international territory.
“we are ready to produce eye witness accounts to the international courts against the Israeli forces” he said.
The members of National Press Club, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalist (RIUJ) congratulated their fellow journalist Syed Talat Hussain for his firm stance against the Israel’s barbarism and his safe return.
Kevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa. “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’”
A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he’d found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando.
Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched and took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him.
Kevin Neish, Canadian activist aboard the Mavi Marmara, witnessed the Israeli commando assault
“I saw them carrying this one IDF guy down,” he recalls. “He looked terrified, like he thought he was going to be killed. But when a big Turkish guy, who had seen seriously injured passengers who had been shot by the IDF, charged over and tried to hit the commando, the Turkish aid workers pushed him off and pinned him to the wall. They protected this Israeli soldier.”
That was when he found the backpack which the soldier had dropped. “I figured I’d look inside and see what he was carrying,” Neish says. “And inside was this kind of flip-book. It was full of photos and names in English and Hebrew of who was on all the ships. The booklet also had a detailed diagram of the decks of the Mavi Marmara.”
Meanwhile, he says, more and more people were being carried down the stairs from the mayhem above—people who’d been shot, and people who were dying or people already dead. “I took detailed photos of the dead and wounded with my camera,” he says, adding,
“There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head–clearly they were executed.”
Neish smuggled his photos out of Israel to Turkey despite his arrest on the ship and imprisonment in Israel for several days. “I pulled out the memory card, tossed my camera and anything I had on me that had anything to do with electronics, and then kept moving the chip around so it wouldn’t be found,” he says. “The Israelis took all the cameras and computers. They were smashing some and keeping others. I put the chip in my mouth under my tongue, between my butt cheeks, in my sock, everywhere, to keep them from finding it,” he says. He finally handed it to a Turk who was leaving for a flight home on a Turkish airline. He says the card ended up in the hands of an organization called Free Gaza, and he has seen some of his pictures published, so he knows they made it out successfully.
Neish says that claims that the Israeli commandos were just armed with paint guns and 9 mm pistols are
“Bullshit–at one point when I was in the stairwell, a commando opened a hatch above, stuck in a machine gun, and started firing. Bullets were bouncing all over the place. If the guy had gotten to look in and see where he was shooting, I’d have been dead, but two Turkish guys in the stairwell, who had short lengths of chain with them that they had taken from the access points to the lifeboats, stood to the side of the hatch and whipped them up at the barrell. I don’t know if they were trying to hit the commando or to use them to snatch away the gun, but the Israeli backed off, and they slammed and locked the hatch.”
“I never saw a single paint gun, or a sign of a fired paint ball!”
He also didn’t see any guns in the hands of people who were on the ship.
“In the whole time I was there on the ship, I never saw a single weapon in the hands of the crew or the aid workers,”
Indeed, Neish, who originally had been on a smaller 70-foot yacht called the Challenger II, had transferred to the Mavi Marmara after a stop in Cyprus, because his boat had been sabatoged by Israeli agents (a claim verified by the Israeli government), making it impossible to steer.
“When we came aboard the big boat, I was frisked and my bag was inspected for weapons,” he says. “Being an engineer, I of course had a pocket knife, but they took that and tossed it into the ocean. Nobody was allowed to have any weapons on this voyage. They were very careful about that.”
What he did see during the IDF assault was severe bullet wounds.
“In addition to several people I saw who were killed, I saw several dozen wounded people. There was one older guy who was just propped up against the wall with a huge hole in his chest. He died as I was taking his picture.”
Neish says he saw many of the 9 who were known to have been killed, and of the 40 who were wounded, and adds, “There were many more who were wounded, too, but less seriously. In the Israeli prison, I saw people with knife wounds and broken bones. Some were hiding their injuries so they wouldn’t be taken away from the others.” He also says, “Initially there were reports that 16 on the boat had been killed. The medical station said 16. There was a suspicion that some bodies may have been thrown overboard. But what people think now is that the the other seven who are missing, since we’re not hearing from families, may have been Israeli spies.”
Once the Israeli commandos had secured control of the Mavi Marmara, Neish says the ship’s passengers and crew were rounded up, with the men put in one area on deck, and the women put below in another area. The men were told to squat, and had their hands bound with plastic cuffs, which Neish says were pulled so tight that his wrists were cut and his hands swelled up and turned purple (he is still suffering nerve damage from the experience, which his doctor in Canada says he hopes will gradually repair on its own).
“They told us to be quiet,” he says. “But at one point this Turkish imam stood up and started singing a call to prayer. Everybody was dead quiet–even the Israelis. But after about ten seconds, this Israeli officer stomped over through the squatting people, pulled out his pistol and pointed at the guy’s head, yelling ‘Shut up!’ in English. The imam looked at him directly and just kept singing! I thought, Jesus Christ, he’s gonna kill him! Then I thought, well, this is what I’m here for, I guess, so I stood up. The officer wheeled around and pointed his gun at my head. The imam finished his song and sat down, and then I sat down.”
While the commandeered vessels were sailed to the Israeli port of Ashdot, the captives were left without food or water. “All we were given were some chocolate bars that the Israelis pilfered from the ship’s stores,” says Neish. “You had to grovel to get to go to the bathroom, and many people had to just go in their pants.”
Things didn’t get much better once the passengers were transferred to an Israeli prison. He and the other prisoners with him, who hadn’t eaten for more than half a day, were tossed a frozen block of bread and some cucumbers.
On the second day, someone from the Canadian embassy came around, calling out his name. “It turned out he’d been going to every cell looking for me,” says Neish. “My daughter had been frantically telling the Canadian government I was in the flotilla. Even though the Israelis had my name and knew where I was, they weren’t telling the Canadian embassy people. In fact the Canadians–and my daughter–thought I was dead, because people had said I’d been near the initial assault. The good thing is that as they went around calling out for me, they discovered two Arab-born Canadians that they hadn’t known were there.”
“Eventually they got to my cell and I answered them. The embassy official said, ‘You’re Kevin? You’re supposed to be dead.’”
After being held for a few days, there was a rush to move everyone to the Ben Gurion airport for a flight to Turkey. “It turned out that Israeli lawyers had brought our case to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of our capture on international waters. There was a chance that the court would order the IDF to put us back on our ships and let us go, so the government wanted to get us out of Israel and moot the case. But two guys were hauled off, probably by Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency). So we all said, ‘No. We don’t go unless you bring them back.’”
The two men were returned and were allowed to leave with the rest of the group.
“I honestly never thought the Israelis would board the ship,” says Neish. “I thought we’d get into Gaza. I mean, I went as part of the Free Gaza Movement, and they had made prior attempts, with some getting in, and some getting boarded or rammed, but this time it was a big flotilla. I figured we’d be stopped, and maybe searched. My boat, the Challenger II, only had dignitaries on board including three German MPs, and then Lt. Col. Ann Wright and myself.
At one point in the Israeli prison, all the violence finally got to this man who had witnessed more death and mayhem than many active duty US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I broke down and started crying,” he admits. “This big Turkish guy came over and asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Sixteen people died.’”
“He said to me, ‘No, they died for a wonderful cause. They’re happy. You just go out and tell your story.’”
by Tom Walker
Osama Qashoo told a packed meeting how he carried an injured man,
“By the time I got to the corner of the room, there was a hot material in my hand – I didn’t realise it was the man’s brain.” He hadn’t realised the man was dead.
Osama was one of the eyewitnesses to Israel’s massacre of nine activists taking aid to Gaza who spoke at a 200-strong meeting at London’s Conway Hall last night. He is a filmmaker with the Free Gaza Movement.
He saw how the IDF treated one injured activist.
“His knee was completely shattered. The soldier just took him and dropped him.”
The Israeli soldiers stopped injured people getting the medical help they needed, the witnesses said.
Laura, an activist from north London, said,
“The floor was covered in blood. No-one expected such a vicious attack.”
A trained first aider, she was trying to help people but was forced to stop.
“Three Israeli soldiers pointed their guns at me and said they’d shoot if I didn’t come.
“I asked them to take people to hospital. They wouldn’t.”
“Hanin, the member of the Knesset on board, who speaks Hebrew, announced over the tannoy that there were critically injured people who needed help,” he said.
“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved.
“They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid.”
Jamal exposed Israel’s lies that the IDF had been “provoked” by people on board.
“I checked and filmed every centimetre and there was not one weapon on that ship,”
“I saw one of the Turkish passengers shot in the top of his head from a helicopter. There was not one soldier on the ship when he was killed.
“After I’d seen two killed, the main organiser took off his white top to use as a white flag. Live fire was still used after that.
“There was an announcement in English and Hebrew saying the ship had been surrendered. There was still live fire after that as well.”
Osama said, “Everyone was panicking, running in different directions. Something fell on my head – it was a soldier. He got up and started shooting.
“We managed to disarm him – it was an act of self defence.
“I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it. They took their camera and filmed their own pistol, saying they’d found a weapon – it was completely staged.”
One by one, the Israelis captured and cuffed the activists.
“I was forced to the ground and beaten,” said Osama. “I could see their laser spots on me.
“Three of the soldiers sat on me. Every soldier who’d come and go would kick me, or spit on me. They put a plastic bag on my head.
“They twisted our hands, twisted the fingers into each other. I’ve now got no feeling in four of my fingers.
“We had a one-year-old child on board, Akram. They were beating me in front of him and he was crying.”
During the long hours sitting on deck, the captives were denied food, water and toilet rights.
“One of the guys was asking to go to the toilet, and the soldier said, go on yourself, said Osama. “In the end, he did.”
Jamal said, “I was cuffed, thrown to the ground and kicked. My face was slammed against the wall.
“One of the Malaysian activists had his hands tied behind his back so tightly that they were turning all sorts of colours.
“He asked for his hands to be loosened. The third time he asked, an Israeli soldier came over and tightened them. And the scream that came out…” he trailed off.
Bilal Abdul Aziz was on one of the flotilla’s smaller ships. “For 18 hours I was gagged,” he said. “I’ve still got scars from where they tied us with cable ties.
“People were shot with stun guns and beaten with truncheons. Me and many others were tasered.
“We were all in the same boat,” he added, to laughter.
Alex Harrison of the Free Gaza Movement said, “Everyone was pushed to the floor, face down in the broken glass.
“Two of the women were hooded, Guantanamo-style.”
“We could hear the sound of live gunfire around us,” she added.
After a slow journey to the port of Ashdod, the activists were searched and thrown in prison.
“They asked me to lift my shirt up,” said Bilal, “and then all the soldiers standing near me ran away. I was wearing a money belt… I guess they thought it was something else.”
Jamal said, “I asked for a lawyer – I was refused. The British consulate – refused. A phone call – refused.
“That was one of the most difficult times. You don’t know what the world knows about you.
“Throughout my time there I did not see a British official.
“I still don’t have my passport – it’s in the custody of the Israeli government, just months after they used British passports for murder.
Ibrahim, an activist from Gloucester, told how he was interrogated by the Israeli secret services. “The guy started becoming abusive, banging the table,” he told the meeting.
“He said, ‘you see those scars on your hand? This is not the end.’
“Before I left, he said to me, ‘watch out for your life’.”
Alex of the Free Gaza Movement said, “One woman had seen her husband killed, but she was just pulled away from him and thrown into prison with the rest of us.
“Later she was shown a photo of him, then 36 hours dead, and told ‘identify him’.”
As they were deported, she said she saw injured people forced to march to the plane unassisted.
“They were covered in blood,” she said. “They had not even been given a change of clothes or allowed to shower.
“They’d been shot in the tops of their feet – and they weren’t even allowed crutches to get to the aircraft. If someone offered them an arm they were screamed at. They were made to hop.
“The British consul was standing there when I was being deported. I said to him, ‘this is illegal.’ He said, ‘I know, but they do what they do.’”
She added, however, that day to day life was far worse for the people of Palestine.
“What we went through was not even one percent of what the Palestinians go through every day,” she said. “That’s what this is about.
“There is not a natural disaster in Gaza. This is not about aid. This is about their human rights, freedoms and dignity.”
‘Freedom Fleet’ members cross border at Naqoura
By Wassim Mroueh and Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Thursday, June 03, 2010
BEIRUT: Four Lebanese passengers of an aid fleet bound for Gaza were released by Israeli authorities on Wednesday.
Lebanese activists Hussein Shukor, Hani Sleiman and Al-Jazeera journalists Abbas Nasser and Andre Abou Khalil entered the Lebanese territories via the Naqoura border crossing.
On Sunday night, Israel’s navy stopped six ships dubbed “The Freedom Fleet” ferrying 700 people and 10,000 tons of supplies toward Gaza strip. A Turkish vessel was attacked by Israeli commandos, killing at least nine activists. The captured vessels were escorted into Israel’s port of Ashdod.
The passengers who came from different states are being deported by Israeli authorities. Six Lebanese passengers were aboard the “Freedom Fleet.”
Issam Zaatar, a carrier of a Lebanese-Belgian dual nationality, had left Israel for Brussels Tuesday morning.
Reports said Nabil Hallak, a Lebanese who holds an Irish passport will be deported by the Israeli authorities to Ireland.
Nasser, meanwhile, has been working for Al-Jazeera television since 2004.
The 34-year-old journalist has served in Al-Manar and Al-Alam TV stations along with Bahrain radio station.
As for 61-year-old Hani Sleiman, the lawyer was injured during the Israeli attack on the Turkish ship. He was also among the passengers of the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel that tried to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in February 2009.
The ship was held by the Israeli authorities and its passengers deported to their countries. Sleiman occupied senior posts in the Baath Party between 1966 and 1974 and has joined a number of associations. Sleiman is married and has three children.
Hussein Shukor lost his wife and four children when his home was hit by Israeli jets in 2006 summer Israeli war against Lebanon.
He also planned to join the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel but failed to do so.
Israel’s step drew waves of criticism from many states and international organizations.
Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan urged the immediate lifting of “the inhumane embargo on Gaza” on Tuesday.
“Israel’s behavior should definitely, definitely be punished,” Erdogan told a meeting of his parliamentary deputies, adding: “The time has come for the international community to say enough.”
Meanwhile, rallies protesting the Israeli storming of the “Freedom Fleet” continued in Beirut on Wednesday.
A sit-in was held by various Lebanese political parties along with Palestinian factions near the ESCWA headquarters in downtown Beirut.
The gathering was called by head of Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt.
The sit-in was attended by members of March 8 and March 14 camps, two rival political groups.
Participants in the sit-in decided to forward petitions conveying their united stance against the aggression to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa and ambassadors of member states in the Security Council.
PSP official Sharif Fayyad outlined to the crowds the content of a petition that was handed to UN Media Center Director Bahaa Al-Qousi. The letter slammed “Israeli aggressiveness” calling it a “natural product of the racist Zionist culture.”
The demonstrators urged the Security Council to deter the ongoing Israeli aggression against civilians that “didn’t spare volunteers from different races trying to deliver aid to Palestinians besieged by Israel.”
They also called upon the Security Council to lift of the blockade on Gaza, impose sanctions on Israel and force it to pay compensations for the “humane and social” disasters it provoked.
Also, around 5,000 individuals gathered Wednesday afternoon near Fatima gate in the border village of Kfar- Kila protesting Israel’s aggression on Gaza’s aid fleet.
The Hizbullah-arranged gathering was attended by the party’s MP Ali Fayyad and Baaath Party MP Qassem Hashem along with a number of local figures.
Reports said the demonstrators remained near the Israeli-Lebanese borders until the Lebanese passengers were released.
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Ma’an – Lawyers were finally allowed to access some 680 activists….. testimony from the detainees on Wednesday, describing Israeli forces opening fire and the state of panic that followed.
After having stormed the vessels, the detained activists said Israeli forces confiscated all mobile phones, laptops, and cash. They told lawyers that Israeli commandos began firing live ammunition, rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear-gas canisters from helicopters without prior notice, which caused panic and confusion amongst those on board.
The overhead helicopters terrified the passengers, with many having assembled for the Muslim dawn prayer.
Syrian activist Shatha Barakat said that when she tried to go to the upper deck of one of the ships to help the injured, she saw blood stains everywhere and heard gunshots from all directions. Offering first aid to an elderly man who was struck, Barakat said all on board the vessel were unarmed. Israeli soldiers, she said, were hit by random fire from military helicopters overhead.
Indonesian doctor Muhammad Halim Ben Hassan, also on the Flotilla, told lawyers that he gave first aid to several people who sustained both gunshot and rubber-coated bullet wounds, confirming he saw four activists dead on board.
Early on Monday morning the six-vessel fleet was attacked by Israel commando forces, who shot dead at least 10 activists on board. The incident occurred in international waters, with Israel’s navy later diverting the aid boats to Ashdod, and detaining all those on board, which included members of parliaments from across the world.
The boats were carrying with them some 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid in an attempt to break Israel’s four-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, which UN organizations say three-quarters of which remain in disrepair following Israel’s assault 16-months prior as building material remains largely embargoed by Israel.
Turks express anger and frustration. Survivors say they tried to turn back Israeli commandos with sticks and bars, but not guns.
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
June 4, 2010
Reporting from Istanbul, Turkey —
The wooden coffins of eight activists killed by Israeli commandos wound through the streets of Istanbul on Thursday as Turks wept and their leaders spoke of the irreparable harm Israel has done to one of its closest Muslim allies.
Turkish anger at Israel’s attack on a humanitarian flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip early Monday had appeared to be subsiding. But the funerals, along with harrowing accounts of returning survivors, added a fresh sense of outrage to the international crisis.
” Turkey will never forgive this attack,” President Abdullah Gul said on NTV television. “Turkish-Israeli relations can never be as before from now on.”
The diplomatic drama over Israel’s assault on the Free Gaza Movement flotilla widened when one of the dead was identified as an American citizen of Turkish descent. Furkan Dogan, 19, who was born in Troy, N.Y., but had lived for years in Turkey, was shot four times in the head and once in the chest, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency, which cited an autopsy report.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet debated how to handle calls for an international investigation.
Netanyahu’s advisors are divided over what sort of inquiry will be convened, officials said. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is facing calls for his resignation, is arguing for an internal military audit. Other ministers are recommending an independent commission with international involvement to ensure credibility.
Near Istanbul’s Fatih mosque, boys shimmied up poles and men climbed atop stone walls to glimpse the funeral cortege moments after a muezzin’s call to prayer swept across the skyline. The procession slipped past the mosque gates and into a city that was once the heart of an empire and now is struggling with disbelief, outrage and sorrow.
“Turkey was attacked going to help. We were attacked in full view of the world,” said Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish group IHH, one of the flotilla’s organizers, addressing thousands of mourners crammed into the mosque’s courtyard and beyond its thick walls. “We were martyrs and Israelis acted in shame.”
But amid bitterness and patriotism, there was frustration over what exactly unfolded in the predawn hours when warships and helicopters encircled the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s lead ship.
“We don’t know which side is right. We don’t accurately know what really happened,” said Boyrom Albayrak, standing beneath the mosque’s golden crescents. “We just know we don’t want this anymore. I’m very sad and a little angry, but things are cooling down.”
Thursday morning began on a less solemn note. About 350 Turkish activists with the Free Gaza Movement, most of whom had been on the Mavi Marmara, flew home before daybreak from Israeli detention. Celebrations turned into preparations for funerals , and survivors gave riveting accounts that contrasted with Israel’s version of the raid.
Activists who were part of the flotilla said they spotted warships about 1 a.m. Monday trailing the Mavi Marmara in international waters off the Israeli coast. Several hours later, after morning prayers, gunboats and Zodiac boats raced alongside as commandos threw hooked ropes at the ship in attempts to board. The activists said the Israelis were beaten back with sticks and water shot from fire hoses.
“The gunboats flanked us and darted in and out across our wake. It was like a pack of hunting dogs,” said Peter Venner, a forester from the Isle of Wight, England, who has supported Gaza aid efforts for years.
“There were explosions and flashes of light about 40 feet away, not to scare us but to alarm us. I leaned over the rail and then I heard a patter, very light, like gravel on the upper deck. I realized it was live ammunition.”
By that time, helicopters thrummed and commandos rappelled to the deck. One of the Mavi’s guards, who gave his name only as Halit because he feared retribution, said he and others shook the dangling helicopter ropes and subdued the descending Israelis.
“They were firing noise bombs and plastic bullets,” he said. “We used sticks and bars and slingshots. As soon as the soldiers came down, we took their guns and beat them with only our hands…. One activist running with me was shot in the forehead, another in the leg.”
The Israeli government said activists ambushed the commandos with knives and shot two soldiers after wresting guns from them. Activists said they never fired a shot and threw the weapons into the sea.
Interviews with six activists suggested confusion spread through the vessel after the Israelis stormed the upper deck and began securing lower decks, and a cabin turned into a makeshift hospital by Free Gaza doctors.
“I changed my clothes, which had blood on them, not mine but from others,” said Venner, a man with bright blue eyes and a graying Vandyke beard. “There was a lot of blood on the steps. I saw Israelis slip on the blood as they were coming down the stairs.”
Three Israeli soldiers had “bruises and one had a swollen face,” said Ahmet Sarikurt, a member of IHH.
“One Israeli was really scared. He seemed to have had a nervous breakdown. Our doctors were treating the Israelis and our people. No Israelis were shot. None of us fired a gun. We had no guns. They shot at us and took the ship.”
The Mavi captain announced the ship was in Israeli control about 7 a.m. The activists were handcuffed. Their cellphones, cameras and other belongings were seized. The Mavi sailed to Israel. In all, nine activists had been killed. More than 40 had been wounded.
The narratives played through Thursday, whispered beyond Koran verses and along the funeral procession as green vans, brocaded in silver, carried coffins draped in Palestinian and Turkish flags. “Terrorist, Israel.” “Damn, Israel.” Names and epithets were shouted by thousands under a blue sky.
Standing with veiled women outside the Fatih mosque, Hanife Rana Emre watched clerics in pressed robes. Men prostrated themselves on brown paper beneath the trees of the sprawling lawn. They called to Allah and then, like a hushed chorus, murmured in prayer.
“We are for the Palestinians,” she said. “If there has to be a war, the Turks will be in it, man, woman and child. They martyred themselves to God in a beautiful way. The Israelis should be called less than animals.”
When Israel’s navy captures the Gaza solidarity fleet, our reporter on the spot. On the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” he witnessed how the elite unit climbs on board and approaching with drawn weapons on civilians. An eye-witness account of Mario Damolin.
06th Juni 2010 June 2010
For four days, my colleague Marcello Faraggi and I on board the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” (Free Mediterranean). W. We have decided, at the stop in Rhodes from pure passenger vessel “Sfendoni” to move here because the freigh that has on board, what is it really – supplies for Gaza: 1400 tons of parts for a hundred prefabricated houses from wood, tile, two Container water treatment plants, hundreds of electric wheelchairs, drugs. We both have small HD cameras here.
Yesterday, early evening, is a writer Henning Mankell come together with the Swedish doctor Viktoria sand and the parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan of the Swedish Open on board. “. The “Eleftheri Mesogeios” is the result of a Swedish-Greek alliance, called “ship-to-Gaza”. In both countries, money for the purchase of the freighter and its cargo has been collected, the Greek crew was taken over. Mankell intended to be a celebrity as a parliamentarian and chaplain to give the ship some protection. “Chef de Mission” is the 63-year-old professor of water engineering at the Technical University of Athens, Vangelis Pissias. Total now 29 people are on board.
About noon General Assembly on deck.. Vangelis Pissias will discuss the strategy for the next day when you expect an attack by the Israeli navy. Pissias is gray-haired, gray beard, thin, as if from a film by Costa-Gavras, with a gentle melancholy in some weather-beaten face. He is revered by his mostly younger riders almost Greek: a socialist, old school, in times of Greek fascism in the background, since that time a friend of President Karolos Papoulias, the company also supports this.
Henning Mankell is a little uneasy
There are fast line: You want to make any physical resistance. It is thought that the freighter be consistent with the relief supplies in the center of Israel’s interest. Dror Feiler, 58 years old, musician, composer and artist, says that the Israelis would hardly dare to attack a passenger ship like the “Mavi Marmara” Muslims with 500 on board. Feiler is something of a spokesman for the Swedish group on board, always ready for a fun, quick-witted. He comes from a Jewish family, was born in Tel Aviv and had three years to do with the Israeli paratroopers until he refused to be one of the first soldiers in the occupied territories. He then emigrated to Sweden. „ “I know the army, which will most likely do not enter such a venture. Finally, the Turks still something of an ally, “said Feiler. Yesterday he was standing in the middle of the cargo deck on his saxophone with Überblastönen and Hanns Eisler’s songs frenetically the merger of the celebrated Freedom Flotilla “, now he looks thoughtful.
The round of the Masters decided to drive after dark in formation: at the head of the “Mavi Marmara”, then, slightly to the side, we are, behind us the “Sfendoni”, then the two Turkish freighter and in between the small American Challenger II. The pace is determined by us, because we have the weakest machine: We make an average of 7.5 knots. We agree, we gather in the event of ENTER on the bridge and defend the pilot house by our presence as long as possible.Marcello Faraggi and I are to the side of the cab on the small terraces get enough space to make perfect shots can. Finally, still divided guards.
Pissias and his colleagues have prepared a small hurdle for any attacker: razor wire, they draw now, just before dark, at the railing around the ship. The 30-year-old Athens Evyenia operation, which has followed her boyfriend on the ship, and Naim, the exiled Egyptians with a Greek passport, prepare dinner in the small kitchen. Then, from ten clock is coffee to the guards, and all those who sleep not provided. The Greek journalist Maria has bonded with adhesive tape on their jacket very large “Press”. We do the same.
At midnight I took up my three-hour guard. Henning Mankell is on my front side toward the bow, he is somewhat uneasy. Most can not sleep, across the deck are small groups, talking, smoking a lot and laugh. In the darkness you can see off a clock lights that accompany us. It is full moon shines the Mediterranean matt black. It is strangely quiet. I go get a coffee, set my camera, spare battery, spare chip, microphone and put myself as agreed at the left side of the ship’s bridge. Pissias is the master, he has tired eyes.
Shortly after four clock: helicopter noise. From the darkness come from behind more than half a dozen small speedboats, each with about a dozen crew members. They rush past us as if there is no us. . Front left the “Marmara” – this is obviously their goal. . The helicopter begins to circle, pursued by bright search lights, which are of the “Marmara” on him. The ship is only in the lower part lit properly, where the cabins are, above it is quite dark. The speedboats orbiting “Marmara” in rapid speed. A little further on is an Israeli frigate – apparently the command center and home station of the speedboats. Pissias comes for a moment out of the cab and said shortly: “You are crazy!” We all put on our jackets.
Ansagen, Befehle, Durcheinander Announcements, instructions, confusion
All have gathered on the ship’s bridge. The Israelis are digging up carefully. The second memory I’ll take out as they enter the lower part of the bridge.
With guns drawn they go on unarmed civilians.
Who does not vary, such as the large, comfortable Michalis, a 65-year-old small business, is cleared to shortest distance from the road. Michalis falls as if struck by lightning at my side when he was a soldier No. 14 – all have numbers – from ten centimeters away with the stun gun.
The same Soldier hits me in the chest and wants to tear the camera out of his hand. I I think initially against it, then let go to me not to let the hand break, and will paid down. Although I have several times pointing out that I’m from the press and show my ID card.
Pissias do not want to hand over the control in the driver’s that simple. He holds himself is beaten and kicked, limping and bleeding on the foot. Gradually we all are brought down and crammed into two benches. Mankell is trembling with rage and impotence, mutters to himself. We will now issue our passports. Some Greeks refuse to be dragged and brutally by soldiers on the deck – on sharp iron stairs, metal pipes and nozzles. . Mehmet Kaplan, the Swedish parliament, protested, referring to his immunity, but the Marines did not know that word probably. Dror Feiler, a born Jew with a Swedish passport, comes from the captain’s cabin with a bleeding ear.
Our invaders are all young people, probably 19 to 25. You are masked, helmeted and for the military Outsider Thus armed, as if they wanted to win the third world war. In many eyes is sheer terror, mixed with a determination to be ready for anything.. Any wrong move can be dangerous, so do the Greeks noticed the impulsive and provoke with words alone.
About eight clock, the sun beats down on the deck, after brief negotiations will allow us to feed a plastic sheet. Water and food are offered to us. We reject it. Only a Greek sandwich takes the proffered – and throws it, spiced with a scornful remark into the sea. I wonder how do I secure my shots. Since I expect to be frisked as film-saving particularly journalist, I ask Henning Mankell. As a celebrity he would probably felted less. Mankell nods, takes the two chips and puts it in his pocket. Two hours later he says that now everything was quiet, and she pushes me down again. Victorian sand, the Swedish doctor, took his place – successfully, as it turned out later.
Soldier No. 23 is the stumbling block on the ship. SShe brings in the Greeks to high temperature. At intervals, at least five times, she comes with her small, private movie camera around the corner and wants to film the group. A great outcry begins. The soldiers should note that this is not allowed under international rules. They care little. Dror Feiler, the Jewish Swede, is for the soldiers of a double offense: first, his impudent flap, secondly, he understands everything they say and translate it promptly.
Suddenly, excitement: A soldier comes running to head the brigade and shows him, trembling with indignation, what he has just found dangerous: two large fruit knife. An arms find! . Loud laughter, even Mankell can not resist a grin.
Henning Mankell is free sooner
More than ten hour drive in the heat, then arrival at the Israeli port of Ashdod. We will first locked down in the small cabins. I must be the first to step up from the ship and see myself from a lot vielhundertfachen. Countless press photographers, TV crews, soldiers, policemen. W We will be presented to the Israeli public. Single.
Right at the quay: a huge tent wing, extra set up. A young officer pulls me by the arm to the first table. A form is submitted to me. I’m supposed to sign that I’m illegally and will be deported. Otherwise, I would come into prison and have to face a trial. I refuse to sign. A translator will be appointed, because I claimed to understand no English. An elderly man with a beard and tipping is a friendly next to me and tried in a mixture of Yiddish and Hebrew to formulate German. I say, I was kidnapped as a reporter. He: “Jo, jo kidnappers.” And he laughs heartily. A medical examination I reject and will then lead to the body search. Access from the whole body, I need to undress down to his underpants. As I step out of the study area, I see how the American piano tuner Paul is on the harbor floor, two men hold him. Then they drag him to a wheelchair. The way I learn that Paul should have jumped into the water, now he is regarded as particularly dangerous.
A young Israeli official told me that there had been on the “Marmara” sixteen dead: ten passengers and six Israelis. And looks at me and accusing it of significance. Another officer asks me where I came from. Germany? He turns in disgust from his face as he stood over a Nazi criminal. Henning Mankell I look at a special table to sit, he is negotiating with several civil-dressed men. He will be freed sooner than all of us. At the back door of the tent city waiting for a barred, darkened prison van on us. Time and again we are photographed and filmed. All calls and demands that to let it be acknowledged with a laugh. In prison vans, it is very hot and stuffy. Ask Only after half an hour, the door is left open, one of the policemen is very courteous and distributed water. Vangelis Pissias angehumpelt comes, he is in pain, his face is sunken. . As he sits in this ancient prison vans, he reminded twice to Costa-Gavras.
Finally, the car drives off, it’s already dark. We will put in a prison. Where this is how it is, how long should be the will not tell us.