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.