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Interview with Polish journalist detained by Israeli commandos

Ewa Jasiewicz and Israeli policeman

Polish-British journalist and human rights activists, a memeber of the Free Gaza Movement, Ewa Jasiewicz was detained after Israeli commandos attacked the Freedom Flotilla on its way to Gaza.

Almost two weeks ago, Israeli Navy attacked a convoy of six ships carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza, killing nine and wounding around twenty pro-Palestinian activists.

Among the human rights activists in the convoy was a Polish-British journalist, a memeber of the Free Gaza Movement, Ewa Jasiewicz. She was briefly detained after the Israeli raid.

She is now in Poland and interviewing her for News from Poland, Michal Kubicki asked her first about the goal of their action.

Click on this link to listen to the interview.

Source


Returned Dundee activist Ali El-Awaisi tells of Gaza death fear

  • By Graham Huband
  • Published in the Courier : 07.06.10
  • Published online : 07.06.10 @ 12.32pm

Ali El-Awaisi

Ali El-Awaisi (front, centre) back with his very relieved family in Dundee, while (below) brother Khalid protests in Dundee against the attack.

Ali El-Awaisi arrived back in his home city on Sunday night, a week after being caught up in the attack on the Mavi Marmara ship.

Ali El-AwaisiAli with sisters Sara (left) and Alla and brothers Abdallah (left) and Khalid.

At least nine people died and others were injured when government forces boarded the vessel as a flotilla of ships attempted to break the blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid.

Safely back home in Rankine Street, 21-year-old Ali — who was arrested and put in jail by Israeli authorities before being deported — said the confrontation had been the most horrendous experience of his life.

He said troops used gas and flash bombs to overwhelm them before embarking on their shooting spree.

Ali told The Courier,

“It was the early hours of the morning and we were just finishing morning prayer when, with no advance warning at all, we started getting shot at.

“When the first person was killed we started to wave a white flag but they kept on shooting.”

He added,

“We didn’t think they would be shooting live ammunition at us but within five minutes there were four people dead and 20 people injured.

“I was just trying to help the injured people. It was terrible — there was blood dripping down the walls. People were getting shot in front of me in their chests and legs.

“One guy had nothing but a camera in his hand but they pointed the laser (sighting from a gun) at him and bang, he was shot.”

“Massacre”

Ali said he thought his own life was about to end when another soldier lifted his rifle and trained his laser sights on his face.

Fortunately, he did not pull the trigger and Ali continued his frantic efforts to help the wounded — some of whom bled to death in front of him. Ali said,

“It was a complete nightmare — it was something absolutely traumatic. It was cold-blooded bloodshed. It was a complete and utter massacre.

“We didn’t have any weapons. We didn’t have anything to defend ourselves with.”

He added, “I am a victim of many crimes — I witnessed murder, I was a victim of kidnapping and I was the victim of attempted murder when the laser was pointed at me.

“I am also the victim of theft as they stole all of my money, my clothes, everything.”

El-Awaisi Dundee protest

Ali — who said he was mentally and physically abused while in custody following the ship’s seizure — said his experience had strengthened his resolve and he vowed to return to the region to do whatever he could to help its people.

He said, “Even though they put me through what they put me through, I have not completed my mission.

“I set off from Dundee to deliver the aid collected from Dundee and Tayside from people who are against inhumane action and against orphans dying of starvation.

“My mission was to go and deliver that aid to Gaza and I will not stop with this until the siege is broken.”

Brother’s relief

Ali was eventually placed on a flight from Tel Aviv to Turkey, the home of several of the activists who died in the onslaught. He finally flew home to Scotland on Sunday and was greeted by family and friends at Glasgow Airport.

Brother Khalid spent much of the last week desperately trying to find out if Ali was safe and then arranging for his younger sibling’s homecoming.

He said, “We are just delighted Ali is back home. He has done a wonderful job and in going through this he has seen what Palestinians go through every day.

“I am glad he is back but both me and my other brother have said we are going with him on the next ship.”

The MV Rachel Corrie — which is carrying almost £30,000 of aid for Gaza donated by the people of Dundee among its hundreds of tonnes of cargo — was stopped from entering Gaza at the weekend and has now docked at Ashdod in Israel.

Mavi Marmara

The operation was carried out peacefully after the ship’s crew refused an offer from the Israeli authorities to unload its cargo on land and accompany it over the border into Gaza.

Postal worker Theresa McDermott (43), from Edinburgh, was on the Challenger, one of the boats in the convoy.

She returned to Scotland on Friday and said in Glasgow on Sunday, “We only had a small taste of what the Palestinians have to go through on a daily basis.”

She added, “I think us normal people have to keep reaching out to the normal people of Palestine.

“If we don’t, these people just feel abandoned, forgotten and hopeless.”

Another Scot, 25-year-old journalist Hassan Ghani, from Glasgow, is due to return home next week.

CHINGFORD: Flotilla survivor returns home

8:45am Wednesday 9th June 2010

Tauqir Sharif

A SURVIVOR of the Israeli raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza has spoken of the “horrific” events he witnessed, as he tries to adjust to life back home in Chingford.

Tauqir Sharif, of Warwick Road, was on board the lead Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean sea when it was boarded by troops in an assault which led to the deaths of nine men.

The convoy of boats, carrying medical supplies, food and toys, was trying to break an Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza strip, which has been in force ever since Hamas won elections there in 2007.

The 23-year-old returned home to England at the weekend after being held in an Israeli prison for two days.

He said: “I’m disappointed that the aid never got to Gaza, because that was the sole point of the trip, despite the media attention. It wasn’t about shaming the Israeli Government – they do that for themselves.

“I’m still taking everything in. I’ve learnt so much about myself I can’t even begin to describe it.

“I’ve seen things – I’ve seen dead bodies and very badly injured people. I’m not sure what effect it’s had on me, it’s all still sinking in and I get flashbacks.

“But I do know that it has made me more determined and I want to go back to Gaza as soon as possible. I don’t want to stop there, I want to train as a paramedic and go to places like the Sudan and Haiti.”

Mr Sharif survived the raid with only minor injuries.

“When it began a group of us were on the middle deck praying. Someone shouted ‘they’re coming’ and then they started shooting at us and coming on board.

“During it most people were just trying to hide, but there was resistance. I had a camera and I was trying to film as much as I could. But the Israelis took it along with my laptop and everything else so I’ve lost the footage.

“I was very, very lucky because another guy on the boat who was filming got shot in the head.

“I don’t know how anyone could say that we attacked first. They were the ones carrying guns and they were the ones that were boarding the ship.

“It was horrific. I saw the body of man who had been shot and half his head was hanging off.

“We managed to get some of the injured into a room and then the troops surrounded us and made us come out one by one.”

One of those killed, 60-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, had become a close friend of Mr Sharif in Turkey as they prepared to set off for Gaza. He was shot four times in the head.

Mr Sharif said: “He was like a grandfather I never had. Before we set off I visited his home and family in Turkey, we went fishing together.

“It was very upsetting.”

He added: “Whatever scratches, cuts and bruises I have it is nothing to what the Palestinian people have to go through on a regular basis.

“While there were nine people killed and it got a lot of attention around the world, Palestinians get shot and killed by the Israeli troops on an almost daily basis and it doesn’t get coverage. Only the other day four were shot dead by a beach.”

Israel has rejected UN calls for an independent investigation into what happened, saying it will carry out a probe itself.

Mohammed Abid Mahi, 31, from Walthamstow, was also on board and has now returned home. He has been reluctant to speak publicly about what he witnessed.

The Guardian understands his pregnant wife went into labour just days after the raid happened.

Source

Israeli attack written into history with chilling survivor accounts

06 June 2010, Sunday

SUNDAY’S ZAMAN İSTANBUL

With most survivors back in their home countries, details are continuing to emerge about exactly what happened during the course of a bloody Israeli military attack on a humanitarian aid convoy heading to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The haunting testimonies of the deported activists recount the sheer horror of the attack and its aftermath. Humiliation, maltreatment and brutality meted out by Israeli soldiers dominate the survivors’ accounts.

They all note that they were unarmed but resisted the soldiers in self-defense while the soldiers used live bullets, a claim that has been confirmed by autopsies performed on the nine peace activists killed in the attack and medical examinations of the over 30 who were wounded. Photographs capturing images of even injured passengers with handcuffs on have also emerged, sparking an international outcry. Activists who returned to Turkey after being deported by Israel have confirmed to the press that they were poorly treated by Israeli authorities between the time of their detention and deportation.

The returnees’ accounts also reveal that in order to secure their release, they were forced to sign a deportation document pledging that they would never travel to Israel again. Some said they could not even understand what was written as documents provided to them were in Hebrew.

‘Wounded people were shot’

Peace activist Ali Buhamd said:

“I saw a soldier shooting a wounded Turk in the head. There was another Turk asking for help, but he bled to death.”

Kevin Ovenden of Britain, who arrived in İstanbul on Thursday and was on the Mavi Marmara, said a man who had pointed a camera at the soldiers was shot directly through the forehead, with the exit wound blowing away the back of his skull.

Lawyer Mubarak Al Mutava, who was on the same ship, also shared recollected moments of horror that the passengers of the humanitarian aid ship faced at the hands of their Israeli attackers.

“Israeli commandos opened fire at us. They killed many activists even before they got on board. I should assure you that not a single volunteer possessed any kind of firearm.”

Israeli naval commandos used batons, teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition during the storming of aid ships bound for Gaza, activists deported by Israel to Jordan said on Wednesday.

“The Israelis just attacked us without warning after the dawn prayer,”

said Norazma Abdullah, a Malaysian who was among the 124 activists who crossed into Jordan at about 7:30 a.m.

‘Israeli deputy prevented shot at me’

Osman Çalık, another flotilla survivor, said his knee was injured when he was shot by one of the soldiers and that an Israeli parliamentary deputy prevented the soldier from taking a second shot at him.

“While I was lying on the ground after my knee was injured, he was about to shoot a second time. Israeli deputy Hanin Zuabi, one of the volunteers aboard, shouted at the soldier in Hebrew to stop. And he did not shoot at me again,”

‘Soldiers humiliated us’

Algerian Izzeddine Zahrour said Israeli authorities

“deprived us of food, water and sleep, and we weren’t allowed to use the toilet.”

“It was an ugly kidnapping and subsequently [we were subjected to] bad treatment in the Israeli jail,” he said. “They handcuffed us, pushed us around and humiliated us.”

“The Israelis roughed up and humiliated all of us — women, men and children,” said Kuwaiti lawmaker  Walid al-Tabtabaie who was on one of the ships with other activists from Muslim countries.

“They were brutal and arrogant, but our message reached every corner of the world: that the blockade on Gaza is unfair and should be lifted immediately,” he added.

The lawmaker claimed there

“was not a single weapon with the passengers aboard all the ships.”

Recai Kaya, a representative of the Enderun Association, said that Israel forces brutally attacked and handcuffed the peace activists while saying “one minute” to try and humiliate them, a reference to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s walkout in Davos last year. During a panel discussion on Gaza at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) on Jan. 29, 2009, Erdoğan walked off the stage in protest of a moderator who did not allow him to speak in response to Israeli President Shimon Peres, who made remarks supporting the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

‘We were deprived of water, food’

Mihalis Grigoropoulos told reporters at Athens International Airport that Israelis rappelled down from helicopters and threw ropes from inflatable boats to climb aboard, adding that teargas and live ammunition were used in the raid.

“We did not resist at all; we couldn’t, even if we had wanted to. What could we have done against the commandos who climbed aboard? The only thing some people tried was to delay them from getting to the bridge by forming a human shield. They were fired upon with plastic bullets and were stunned with electric devices,”

He also said they were faced with mistreatment after they were arrested.

“There was great mistreatment after our arrest. We were essentially hostages, like animals on the ground. … They wouldn’t let us use the bathroom, wouldn’t give us food or water and they took videos of us despite international conventions banning this,”

Another Greek peace activist, Dimitris Gielalis, who was with the flotilla, said:

“They came up and used plastic bullets. We had beatings, we had electric shocks, any method you can think of, they used.”

He said the boat’s captain was beaten for refusing to leave the wheel and had sustained non-life-threatening injuries, while a cameraman filming the raid was hit in the eye with the butt of a rifle.

‘Captivity in Israel just like Guantanamo’

Anne De Jong, a Dutch activist on the Mavi Marmara, said that she felt like she was waking up from a horrible nightmare. Saying that they suffered mistreatment while they were detained, De Jong said, “What we went through while we were jailed brought Guantanamo to our minds,” in remarks to Dutch television channel NOS. She also said Israeli officials attempted to force the prisoners to sign certain documents to be used as evidence against them, noting that she and other activists resisted this.

“People fell to the floor when they started shooting. It is a huge lie that people attacked the soldiers or provoked them.”

She also said the soldiers used force and violence when detaining the activists and that they were not allowed access to lawyers.

Source

Unite to rescue Gazans from Israel, world urged

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.

Source

Three Pakistanis on Gaza flotilla return home

2010-06-04 14:11:21

Islamabad: Three Pakistanis, including prominent TV anchor Talat Hussain, who were detained after an Israeli raid on a Gaza aid convoy, have returned home to a warm welcome.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, relatives of the freed men, civil society representatives and journalists from the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were on hand to greet them at the Benazir International Bhutto Airport on Thursday and showered them with rose petals, Geo News reported.

Apart from Hussain, the executive director of Aaj TV, the others who returned were Raza Mehmood Agha, a producer with the channel, and Nadeem Khan of the NGO Khubaib Foundation.

US-Turkish man killed in Israeli flotilla raid

Hussain told reporters at the airport that the Israeli attack early Monday on the Freedom Aid Flotilla in which 10 foreign aid workers were killed “has unveiled the evil designs of international big giants of democracy”.

“Israel has once again torn apart ethical values by killing innocent people through launching raids but big powers are criminally silent,”

He said he would go back to Gaza and even Israel if his journalistic responsibilities demanded this.

Israeli authorities detain 480 activists

The three Pakistanis had arrived in Amman on Tuesday after being in Israeli detention for nearly 48 hours.

Source.

Eyewitness to the Israeli Assault on the Mavi Marmara

June 25, 2010 2 comments
Tue, 06/15/2010 – 20:43 — lindorff
by:
Dave LIndorff

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 assaultKevin 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.’”

Source

Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin – Part 1

June 22, 2010 1 comment

Source – Translated By Google


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.

PART TWO AVAILABLE HERE

Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin – Part 2

June 21, 2010 1 comment

PART ONE AVAILABLE HERE

After the seizure of six ships of the fleet auxiliary Gaza landed passengers and crew in the prison in Beersheba. There, the guards had with the prisoner so their difficulties.  Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin.

07th Juni 2010 June 2010

After two locks, we reach the main room of the building on the ground floor, polygonal, functional, easily surveyed. Left, separated from the department for personnel, office space, a space with photo equipment, some intelligence officers – they are easy to identify – rests on the wall.  The left, further forward then a sort of a small kitchen area with rinsing, then the cells begin in the ground floor.  Quite right, next to the entrance, showers in open cubicles, each about a camera is mounted shower. On the wall next to a series payphones.  In the last third of this lower range are the seats for the prisoners, four welded to a metal table. A On one of the tables emblazoned stamp of TÜV Rheinland.  We get two small bars of soap, three packs of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, a plastic cup and a Esstablett.

A staircase leads to the first floor with other cells, each with four beds, a table with welded seat, a cabinet with four compartments.  The toilet behind a door that allows the top and bottom clearance. The flush makes a noise like a jackhammer.  Bedroom and bathroom are equipped with surveillance cameras.  Donate to the top of the wall, a fan, the cooling system. From the barred window, one sees behind the large prison buildings, the Negev desert.

5115 cell on the first floor is now on our accommodation: inmates are next to me Marcello Faraggi, Italian journalist from Brussels, Bilal Abdul Aziz, an English teacher from Britain, Manolis Matchioulakis, solar energy expert from Athens. The fan is not working our cell, but in a corner of a package is with all the individual parts. Faraggi has installed the equipment in thirty minutes on the plate to the wall. The fact that this section was provided in a hurry, one observes the plaster, which is located on the cell floor with the mattress, still wrapped, and the bird droppings on the railings – apparently pitched the more recently in the open, and none has been cleaned.

Too little food and water

The ground floor will be brought in water bottles, food – bread, cucumbers, peppers – then the doors open on a Zentralmechanismus. All come out in our tract of about sixty people are at least twelve people media: filmmakers write journalists, photographers from the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Ireland, Australia, Turkey, Jordan.  In the strong Greek, there are two professors, trade unionists, engineers, skilled workers, a student from Zurich, and Naim Elghandour, the cook of the “Eleftheri Mesogeios”, a comfortable exile with a Greek passport Egyptians, the Greeks out loud, offensive and funny at the same time – little to slow. The Turkish group comes mainly from the cargo ships of IHH, a Turkish aid organization, which is described in some countries as a radical Islamist.

he very first evening is clear that the enforcement staff will not have it easy. Sound is called for lawyers and diplomats, some want to call – a mess beyond compare. The Israeli prison guards look surprised at the chaos.  One of higher rank comes forward and asks for peace, then we should also make calls tomorrow. Screams and laughter. We were not prisoners, says the Israeli, but visitors, so guests, and even calls one from the background: “One cappuccino please!” The Anglo-Saxons are with whiskey made.  Vangelis Pissias shouts: “I am a political prisoner.”

The organization is chaotic in prison, the staff is not trained, resources are inadequate. Prisoners who need medicine are hardly heard, there are too few (bad) food, the morning after posting no breakfast, there is no water. DThe guards recommend quench the thirst in the sink.  Some draw the meal with cups from the large containers and eat with the hand, because no cutlery.

Some prison officials feel the adrenaline levels rising. They are not against Palestinians, but self-conscious Europeans, who get intimidated and do not insist on the observance of human rights.  The attempt to let the guests-prisoners for the purpose of counting up the rank and file will fail miserably.  All cells in the back is, then, no one goes, one of the officers began to scream. The first morning we select speakers who will represent our claims against the prison authorities. The prison staff responded in confusion.  The authority is gone, which makes them more aggressive.

This text is an excerpt from the testimony of our reporter Mario Damoli

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Im Gefängnis von Beerscheba In prison in Beersheba

Über jeder Dusche eine Kamera About every shower a camera

Nach der Kaperung von sechs Schiffen der Gaza-Hilfsflotte landeten Passagiere und Mannschaften im Gefängnis von Beerscheba. After the seizure of six ships of the fleet auxiliary Gaza landed passengers and crew in the prison in Beersheba. Dort hatten die Wärter mit den Häftlingen so ihre Schwierigkeiten. There, the guards had with the prisoner so their difficulties. Auszug aus einem Augenzeugenbericht von Mario Damolin . Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin.

07. 07th Juni 2010 June 2010

Nach zwei Schleusen erreichen wir den Hauptraum des Baus im Erdgeschoss, mehreckig, funktional, leicht überblickbar. After two locks, we reach the main room of the building on the ground floor, polygonal, functional, easily surveyed. Links, abgetrennt, die Abteilung für das Personal, Büroräume, ein Raum mit Fotoanlage, einige Geheimdienstleute – sie sind leicht zu identifizieren – lehnen an der Wand. Left, separated from the department for personnel, office space, a space with photo equipment, some intelligence officers – they are easy to identify – rests on the wall. Linker Hand, weiter vorne dann eine Art kleiner Küchenbereich mit Spülwannen, danach beginnen die Zellen im Erdgeschoss. The left, further forward then a sort of a small kitchen area with rinsing, then the cells begin in the ground floor. Ganz rechts, neben dem Eingang, Duschen in offenen Kabinen, über jeder Dusche ist eine Kamera angebracht. Quite right, next to the entrance, showers in open cubicles, each about a camera is mounted shower. An der Wand daneben eine Reihe Münztelefone. On the wall next to a series payphones. Im letzten Drittel dieses unteren Bereichs sind die Sitzflächen für die Gefangenen, jeweils vier an einen Metalltisch geschweißt. In the last third of this lower range are the seats for the prisoners, four welded to a metal table. Auf einem der Tische prangt der Stempel von TÜV Rheinland. On one of the tables emblazoned stamp of TÜV Rheinland. Wir erhalten zwei kleine Stück Seife, drei Päckchen Shampoo, eine Zahnbürste, Zahnpasta, ein Handtuch, eine Plastiktasse und ein Esstablett. We get two small bars of soap, three packs of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, a plastic cup and a Esstablett.

Über eine Treppe kommt man in den ersten Stock mit weiteren Zellen: jeweils vier Betten, ein Tisch mit angeschweißter Sitzfläche, ein Schrank mit vier Abteilungen. A staircase leads to the first floor with other cells, each with four beds, a table with welded seat, a cabinet with four compartments. Die Toilette hinter einer Tür, die oben und unten Freiraum lässt. The toilet behind a door that allows the top and bottom clearance. Die Spülung macht einen Lärm wie ein Presslufthammer. The flush makes a noise like a jackhammer. Schlafraum und Toilette sind mit Überwachungskameras bestückt. Bedroom and bathroom are equipped with surveillance cameras. Oben an der Wand ein Ventilator, der Kühlung spenden soll. Donate to the top of the wall, a fan, the cooling system. Aus dem vergitterten Fenster sieht man hinter den großflächigen Gefängnisbauten die Wüste Negev. From the barred window, one sees behind the large prison buildings, the Negev desert.

Ankunft in Istanbul: Journalisten nach ihrer Abschiebung aus Israel

Ankunft in Istanbul: Journalisten nach ihrer Abschiebung aus Israel Arrival in Istanbul: journalists after their deportation from Israel

Zelle 5115 im ersten Stock ist von jetzt an unsere Unterkunft: Insassen sind neben mir Marcello Faraggi, italienischer Journalist aus Brüssel, Bilal Abdul Aziz, Englischlehrer aus Großbritannien, Manolis Matchioulakis, Solarenergie-Fachmann aus Athen. 5115 cell on the first floor is now on our accommodation: inmates are next to me Marcello Faraggi, Italian journalist from Brussels, Bilal Abdul Aziz, an English teacher from Britain, Manolis Matchioulakis, solar energy expert from Athens.

Activists Recount Events on the Mavi Marmara

June 18, 2010

By Ellen Davidson

A near-capacity crowd packed House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn June 17 to hear speakers from the MV Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza that was boarded by Israeli commandos May 31. Nine passengers were killed and dozens wounded in the raid.

Only a half-dozen or so people attended a counterdemonstration called by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), an umbrella group for many Jewish organizations in the city. The counterprotest was kept across the street and down the block, thus avoiding the hostile confrontations that sometimes arise at actions in support of the Palestinian people. One of the scheduled speakers was not allowed into the country. Former Turkish Member of Parliament Ahmet Faruk Unsal, an activist with the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, a Turkish group that was one of the main forces behind the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, was not allowed to board the plane from Turkey. Several New York politicians had called on the State Department to investigate the visa applications of the scheduled speakers (see “New York Politicians Peddle Israeli Propaganda About Gaza Flotilla”).

The crowd at House of the Lord Church was welcomed by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a longtime activist for peace and justice. “Wherever members of the human family, irrespective of the religious persuasion, irrespective of the political ideology, irrespective of the pigmentation, irrespective of the geographical location on this globe, wherever there are human beings suffering, that’s where I want to be,” said Daughtry.

City Councilman Charles Barron, who took part in an overland aid delegation to Gaza last year, addressed the crowd as well. Saying he has been getting “a lot of heat” lately over his stance in support of the Palestinian people, he recounted how he received a call from a rabbi who said he was “outraged.” Barron asked him whether he just wanted to “cuss me out and hang up” or whether he wanted to engage in an “intellectual discussion.” Barron proceeded to enumerate some of the points such a discussion would entail. “Who are the terrorists? What is terrorism? How do you define terrorism? How do you define acts of piracy? Is it just for Somalians who are trying to protect their coastline and their fishing industry and stopping boats from coming into Somalia and dumping toxic waste? Are those  pirates? Or are there pirates who take boats in international waters and murder people with no justification?”

“Any experience that deliberately sets up a people to die because they can’t get water, can’t get medicine, is a death camp,” Barron went on, “and if you don’t like me using those words, too bad. That’s what it is. You can’t purposely set up people to die, inflict genocide on other people and think that you’re the only one that has a monopoly on suffering.  You have no monopoly on suffering. Every people has a holocaust. There’s been an African holocaust.” Millions of black people died under the apartheid regime in South Africa, with its partner Israel, Barron pointed out, “so don’t talk to me about your outrage.”

“We know that when we liberate Palestine, we liberate Africa,” said Barron. “When we liberate Africa, we’re going to liberate the Caribbean and Latin America, and Central America and Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant and the United States of America. This struggle is important for us to win.”

“You only go around once in life so you might as well live it with some spine,” he concluded.

Kevin Ovenden, national coordinator of Viva Palestina and a passenger on the Mavi Marmara, spoke of his experiences aboard the boat when it was attacked by commandos from the Israeli Defense Forces. Viva Palestina has organized several successful missions to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Ovenden described being held in an Israeli prison in the Negev desert, remembering

“the brother who was shot through the leg, just one meter in front of me; the one shot through the abdomen 50 centimeters  to the right of me. Where we were, there were no Israeli commandos within the immediate proximity. It is simply unfeasible for anyone to maintain that the people who fired those shots from above, not within our line of sight, in any sense could feel threatened by the two men who were shot either side of me. Simply unfeasible. A complete and utter  lie. It’s also a lie in the shooting dead of Cevdet Kiliçlar, a young man who left a wife and two children, a photographer,  he was holding a stills camera, again, not one Israeli commando within the immediate vicinity, but he was shot through the forehead, the high-velocity bullet blowing away the back third of his skull, cradled by a friend of mine, as the last two seconds of his life passed away.”

“Their blood is now lapping on the shores of Gaza,” said Ovenden, “but their blood was not shed in vain because the tide has turned and we must seize this tide to make a lasting change for the people of Palestine, the Middle East, and around the world.”

Backed by the United States and Britain, Israel has refused to allow an international investigation of the attack on the flotilla, instead appointing an Israeli body to look into the incident. “This is a whitewash inquiry. The thing about whitewashes, which any painter or decorator will tell you, is that if you slap whitewash on too thick and too quick, it begins to peel as soon as you put it on. The British establishment has just found this out. Thirty-eight years ago they commissioned a shotgun inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre that killed 14 people, the Widgery whitewash, and it’s just been overturned by the Saville inquiry and the truth is out and the apologies are coming. Thirty-eight years too late, but justice will not be denied forever, and justice in this case will not be denied.”

Filmmaker and activist Iara Lee was also a passenger on the Mavi Marmara. She had visited Gaza in December with the Gaza Freedom March and “was appalled to see the destruction of infrastructure and the effects of the use of white phosphorus, how fishermen could not even fish off their waters. And I thought it was our moral obligation to continue this fight, so we supported the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. I went as a filmmaker, as an activist, as a humanitarian aid worker.

“We had over 600 passengers on our boat, representative of over 40 countries. During the journey I got to see that they were coming from all walks of life and our common goal was to break this illegal siege, bring our token, even if it was 10,000 tons, it was still token [compared to] the humanitarian aid they needed, because at the end of the day, they want to have trade, they want to live like normal people.”

She showed footage that she and her crew had smuggled off the Mavi Marmara; the footage is unusual, because most of the video that has been released has come from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and has been severely edited. “The first thing they [the commandos] did is to confiscate all our footage,” explained Lee, “because they didn’t want the world to know. And despite the danger, my crew and I decided that we were going to film and try to get this footage out. … We are still trying to restore some of the corrupt data, and we will be able to have a little bit more, to show before the raid how people were a peace boat, not a hate boat, and that we were not there to lynch Israeli soldiers. We didn’t even know they were going to come and start killing us.”

Many believe that, like Operation Cast Lead, the three-week attack Israel mounted on Gaza in 2008-09 that resulted in more than 1,400 dead and thousands wounded, the assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla will serve to shift world opinion against the Israeli siege of the territory.  Egypt has already eased its role in the blockade, saying it will now open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, which had previously been tightly controlled and only accessible for a couple of days a month.

Said Ovenden: “Because the tide has turned, this is the meaning of the massacre of the Mavi Marmara. It is that the miasma of defeat that had settled, sedimented, for so long in the minds of people throughout the Middle East and even upon many of our own minds in this room tonight is finally lifted and we can see through the disappearing fog the way forward and how we can start to take some steps forward to victory. The question is not will this siege be lifted. The question is how rapidly it will be lifted and how this siege will be ended… Across the world, now, all those who’ve been moved by this issue need to step into the front rank of the movement alongside those in Turkey who’ve lost their loved ones. From Vancouver to Lake Van, from Casablanca to Kuwait, from all four points of the compass, we must mobilize now, to head back to Gaza and through Gaza towards the liberation of Palestine.”

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