‘Gaza heroes’ welcomed home
KUWAIT: Eighteen Kuwaiti activists detained by Israel after a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla returned home yesterday, accusing Israeli troops of having opened fire without warning. The activists, including Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and six women, were flown home aboard a government plane from Jordan after crossing by bus from Israel early yesterday, following hours of delay.
Tabtabaei, who was on the main vessel, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, told Kuwait Times that Israeli commandos fired live ammunition from the air killing two unarmed Turkish men instantly. This, he said, led to a firm unarmed stand by the civilians on the boats against fully armed soldiers that did not show any mercy.
“The resistance of the hostile takeover led to holding three Israeli soldiers captive that were freed later on when the flotilla surrendered,”
“We were assaulted, beaten and tied up for hours”.
Tabtabaei said the attack came in early hours of the morning,
“when we were getting ready for morning prayers without any warning of any kind. Later, we were forced to be interrogated but we refused to answer any questions.” Calling the Israelis “high seas pirates”,
Tabtabaei said he refused to answer any questions directed at him aboard the ship.
Israeli commandos started shooting from the air without warning,” lawyer Mubarak Al-Mutawa, who was also on the Mavi Marmara, told reporters. “They killed a number of volunteers even before landing aboard the ship,” he said. Young activist Ali Buhamd claimed he saw an
“Israeli soldier shooting and killing a wounded Turk in the head”
“soldiers left another wounded Turk to bleed to death despite repeated appeals for help.”
Israel has blamed activists on board the Mavi Marmara for Monday’s confrontation in international waters, saying its troops were attacked as they boarded the ship and that nine passengers were killed in the fighting.
“I assure you that no one from the aid volunteers had any firearms. We had no other weapons, except kitchenware, and the volunteers did not start any resistance,”
Another Kuwaiti activist compared their subsequent detention by Israeli authorities to Guantanamo, the controversial US detention centre for terrorism suspects in Cuba.
“We experienced the Zionist crimes in the true meaning of the word. We lived two days as if we were in Guantanamo,”
Abdulrahman Al-Kharraz said.
Women activists Sundus Al-Abduljader and Senan Al-Ahmad said they were handcuffed, mistreated by Israelis and forced to go to the bathroom while still in handcuffs.
“They kept us confined inside the ship for 24 hours, handcuffed and with a number of the dead bodies with us. Five of the group were made to stay on top of the ship under the sun for hours,”
Tabtabaei said he was kicked by soldiers, who prevented him going to the toilet for 24 hours, while Mutawa, in his 60s, said his left hand was almost paralysed because of the tight cuffs. “With God’s will, we will not rest until Gaza and all of Palestine is free from the Zionist death grip” Mutawa added. The 18 men and women, some of whom looked exhausted, were received by Prime Minister HH Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, senior officials and a large number of relatives, carrying Kuwaiti and Turk
The Kuwaitis arrived home on an Amiri plane sent by HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah at 10:45 am at the ministerial protocol hall where they were welcomed by National Assembly Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi at the moment and their families who preferred waiting in the hot sun rather than inside the hall. Tears of joy and cries of “Allah is Greatest” greeted the landing plane as families ran over rope barriers to hug their imprisoned relatives and welcome them back home while holding Kuwaiti and Turkish flags.
Abdul Rahman Failakawee, a Kuwaiti, said the Israelis had used an array of weaponry to subdue those on board the convoy. “The attack was totally barbaric,” he said by telephone from a bus taking the freed activists to Amman.
“They used legitimate and maybe illegitimate weapons: rubber bullets, live ammunition, sound bombs and tear gas bombs. They also used batons as they landed to beat those on board to control the ship.”
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reporter Muna Shashter, who was one of the women detainees, called on all Arabs and all Muslims to take similar actions, urging them to be a part of freeing Gaza and stopping all the inhumane actions against fellow Arabs and Muslims by the Israeli forces. Shashter added that one day in detention by the Israeli forces is more than enough to show how much the people of Palestine are suffering and how brutal and cruel their treatment of Palestinians is.
Shashter described the Israelis as
“terrorists, liars, and brutal animals” that don’t consider others who are not Israelis humans. Shashter said the attack on the aid flotilla took place in international waters with three boats and a helicopter ordering the captains to turn back, all of whom refused and continued ahead. “After that, each boat was surrounded by vessels and a helicopter deployed men in black, armed from head to toe, who asked no questions and killed two Turkish men immediately,”
She said things got worse when they were forced to stand for five hours under the sun with their hands tied without allowing them to make any phone calls. Shashter thanked the people of Kuwait for their support along with officials who helped them get back home safely by starting a major campaign, while thanking people around the world who stood against the Israeli actions and their vicious acts.
Four Bahraini activists from the aid flotilla were also arrived home yesterday. Sheikh Jalal Al-Sharqi, a Bahraini who was on the Mavi Marmara, said in a telephone call from Amman that activists were
“not allowed to go to the bathroom, nor to pray”.
Other activists expelled to Jordan early yesterday accused Israeli commandos who carried out the raid of killing passengers cold-bloodedly. “What happened was unbelievable. The way the criminal Israeli soldiers beat us and killed Turkish activists in cold blood was like a bloody movie. They could have arrested them,” Morrocan MP Abdelqader Amara, 47, told AFP in a hotel in Amman.
“The Israelis used live ammunition and showed us all the barbarism and cruelty in the world although all of us were unarmed. The Israelis beat some of them up with the butts of their rifles before they shot them dead.”
The Jewish state early Wednesday deported to Jordan 126 people it held after Monday’s raid, among them 30 Jordanians as well as nationals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Oman, Yemen, Mauritania, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Azerbaijan. Turkish nationals made up the bulk of the more than 600 passengers on the fleet, and four were killed in the attack, diplomats in Ankara have said, dragging Israel’s relations with Turkey to a new low.
Amara said the attempt by the “Peace Flotilla” to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip had served to highlight the “crimes” of the Jewish state. “What we did has exposed the Zionist entity to the world because its crimes took place in international waters. They did not warn us at all before storming the ship. It was a nightmare,” said Amara. He added that he and seven other Moroccans were to head home later yetserday. “We were beaten, humiliated, insulted and stripped of our clothes.
“An Algerian MP nearly lost his eyes after the Israelis beat him,”
said another passenger, Salha Nuweisreyh, 51, of Algeria.
Najwa Sultan, 48, also from Algeria, said Israel
“treated the activists as if they were terrorists”. “We were deprived of basic rights. They handcuffed us after the raid and kept us waiting under the sun for many hours. It was inhuman,”
“I think we have achieved our goal and broke the blockade despite all what happened. Israel has gone mad and it will not continue to exist forever.” Around 28 Algerian nationals are expected to head home today.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday instructed his government to facilitate the transfer to the kingdom of those wounded in the attack “and provide them with necessary treatment and care before sending them to their countries”. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. The Israeli operation has sparked global outrage, with many countries calling for international probe, and on Wednesday Nicaragua became the first country to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel over the incident.
Greece said several of its citizens were badly treated, reports emerged of an Australian journalist being Tasered and volunteers described Israeli “crimes”. Top Swedish author Henning Mankell – who was on board the fleet of six boats towed to Israel after the offensive on Monday that left nine people dead and dozens injured – accused the Jewish state of “brutality”.
“What will happen next year when we come back with hundreds of boats? Will they fire a nuclear bomb?”
the author of the Wallander crime series
said when he returned to Gothenburg airport on Tuesday night.
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald said its photographer Kate Geraghty may have been hit with a stun gun by Israeli forces during the raid. On its website, the newspaper said Geraghty had told Australian Consular officials on Tuesday she had been hit in the upper arm with what she believed to be a Taser and had subsequently suffered a minor burn and felt nauseous. The photographer and Herald journalist Paul McGeough have been in Israeli detention since Monday.
“I did not see her being Tasered, but when we were all finally gathered into a room and they had subdued all of us and taken over the boat she did show us her wound on her arm and she said that she wasn’t feeling well and that she was hurt,”
said Palestinian activist Huwaida Arraf, who was on the same boat.
The Israelis just attacked us without warning after dawn prayer,” said Norazma Abdullah, a Malaysian who crossed into Jordan.
“They fired with some rubber bullets but after some time they used live ammunition. Five were dead on the spot and after that we surrendered,”
said Abdullah, who was on the Marmara where most of the violence took place. Abdullah, speaking to Reuters near a Jordan river bridge, said the Israeli commandos had then kept the activists tied up for 15 hours until they reached the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Abdullah said the Turkish-backed flotilla had been more than 68 miles off the Gaza coast when it was intercepted.
“Our original plan was to stop there and ask for Israeli permission before we entered and, if they refused, to stay at sea in protest … but they attacked us before we had a chance to do that,”
Archbishop Hilarian Capucci, a Greek Catholic prelate from Jerusalem who was imprisoned by Israel in 1974 and later deported, said the maritime attack was unwarranted.
“Our trip to Gaza was a trip of love and God was with us. Israel by its actions had rightly drawn world outrage over its brutality against unarmed people carrying a message of love to an innocent occupied people under siege,”
Capucci said. – Agencies
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.
Henning Mankell, the renowned Swedish crime writer and author of the Wallander series, was on board the Sophia, which formed part of the Gaza Flotilla, when Israeli commandos raided the ship.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin after spending 24 hours in an Israeli cell, Mankell accused the Israelis of “going out to commit murder” and says he witnessed the shooting an elderly passenger with a stun gun.
Mankell described how he was woken at 4am and told that the ship Mavi Marmara was under attack.
Passengers on the Sophia could see helicopter spotlights and hear weapons firing. They couldn’t find out exactly what was happening because communication had been stopped by the Israeli military.
Then, at 4.35am, the Israelis attacked the Sophia. Passengers and crew had decided not to resist, and stood on the bridge. Masked commandos landed, carrying submachine guns and forced them all below deck.
“We had elderly people among us, who perhaps weren’t so quick on their feet,” says Mankell. “One of them was shot in the arm with an stun gun and he fell to the floor in pain. Another man was hit with a rubber bullet and also fell to the floor.”
The soldiers then searched the ship. After a while they came back and said they had found weapons. “We said, ‘What weapons? There aren’t any weapons on board this ship.’
“Then they showed us a wet razor—my razor. Then they showed us a little knife from the kitchen, which the Egyptian cook used to open provisions.”
“When we got to land, something happened that I will never forget. One after the other, we were led into a prison—we had to run a gauntlet between two lines of soldiers.
“The soldiers never identified themselves but they filmed us the whole time, though Geneva Convention forbids treating civilians like this.
“And I can testify that they stole everything I had. They stole my camera, my phone, my money, my credit card, my clothes—everything.
“A policeman said to me, ‘Either we’ll deport you or you’ll go to prison.’
“I asked, ‘What am I accused of?’ He said, ‘You have entered Israel illegally.’
“I replied, ‘What are you talking about? I was kidnapped and forced to come here’.”
Mankell angrily rejects accusations that people who protest against Israel are anti-Jewish.
“I’m not an antisemite. I am against the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinians. I’m against it, because it’s a kind of apartheid. I was against apartheid in South Africa and I’m against apartheid today.”
“I prefer not to be one of the useful idiots who sit around and cynically assert that solidarity isn’t worth anything. I’d rather not belong among them.”
Mankell vowed to continue the fight to free Palestine.
“This time we came with six ships, and we’ve seen the Israeli reaction,” he said. “But what if we came back in a year with a hundred ships? What would Israel do? Bomb us?
“Wouldn’t it be a better idea for Israel to lift the blockade?”
Published: 2 Jun 10 08:14 CET
Updated: 2 Jun 10 13:38 CET
Swedish author Henning Mankell is one of a trio of activists which have arrived back in Sweden after being released by Israel following their participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos.
Mankell arrived in Sweden late Tuesday together with Green Party member Mehmet Kaplan and senior physician Victoria Strand.
“What will happen next year when we come back with hundreds of boats? Will
they drop an atom bomb,”
the renowned author of the Wallander crime series said when he returned to Gothenburg airport on Tuesday night.
Mankell expressed concern over the Swedes remaining in Israel.
“We are worried about our friends who are still in jail,” the renowned author of the Wallander detective series told the Expressen tabloid onboard the flight to Sweden.
Sweden’s foreign ministry has said that four of the 11 Swedes who had been travelling with the flotilla when it was attacked early Monday – leaving nine
activists dead and scores injured – had been permitted to leave Israel.
Kaplan and Strand met the assembled media when they arrived at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Strand said that it took eleven hours for the Israelis to tow the boat on which they were travelling, the Sofia, into Ashdod harbour. During this time the activists were guarded by masked soldiers.
The quay was lined with hundreds of soldiers past which the activists were forced to walk passed. They were then dispersed to various “stations”.
“The Israelis did all they could to humiliate us… They wanted to scare us into obedience,”
According to Strand the activists were accused of illegally encroaching on an Israeli military zone.
“Then I replied that “you detained us 79 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza and you do not have any right to a military zone there’”.
Under protest Strand decided to sign a document where she agreed to immediate deportation.
Mehmet Kaplan told how the Israeli commandos boarded the boat from both sides.
“It was if we had been attacked by pirates. When they approached our boat they got onboard via grappling hooks on on both sides. We retreated up to the bridge and engine room to protect them but the soldiers, who bore balaclavas, used stun guns against several people on the boat,”
Kaplan underlined that nobody that he travelled with, neither the crew nor the activists, offered any resistance.
“We had undertaken anti-violence training and we retreated the while time as they advance, fully equipped,”
Kaplan only first found out that activists had died at the hands of Israeli commandos on Tuesday. He reserved warm praise for the foreign ministry and the Swedish embassy in Tel Aviv.
“Without their help we would perhaps still be there. It is a lifeline for those who remain,”
Henning Mankell completed his journey in Gothenburg and on arrival at Landvetter airport he told the Expressen daily that he had not regrets over his participation, but elected to reserve further comment until later.
“For the simple reason that some of our friends remain in custody in Israel,”
The Israeli government said on Tuesday that it plans to release all of the foreigners who were involved in the Gaza-bound flotilla. Hundreds were expelled on Wednesday.
The six ships in the Freedom Flotilla, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on a mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.