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Bulgarian Gaza Reporter: Turkish Ship Was Provocation for Israel

Bulgarian Reporters
The reporter, who is one of the two Bulgarian journalists, arrested Monday when Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, says everyone on board was fully aware they were heading to a war zone.

In a Thursday interview, Svetoslav Ivanov, who was on one of the six-ship flotilla, along with cameraman, Valentiv Vassilev, both from the country’s biggest private national TV channel bTV, pointed out that before the ships sailed they were under the impression the captains would stop them before entering territorial waters, only to realize it was deiced and coordinated ahead of time that there would be no stopping at all.

“They all knew Israel was prepared to use any means to stop them,” the reporter pointed out.

Ivanov also stated that the 50+ organizers, mainly pro-Palestinian organizations, but also human rights ones, and peace supporters, were fully aware that they had media traveling with them, which made them bolder, adding things could have been much scarier without the presence of journalists.

The reporter stressed that there have been provocations towards the Israelis, particularly pointing out the culprit of the incident, the Turkish ship “Mavi Marmara,” which was the said target of the commandos’ attack.

“The ship was huge. It had 540 Turkish passengers on board. The captains decided before the beginning of the trip that it would lead the flotilla. I have some of the attack on film with Valentin having just about a minute to do whatever he could in the dark” Ivanov said, adding warnings on the radio started as early as 10 pm Sunday.

“We were all gathered inside the captain’s cabin – journalists and many American citizens, some were pro-Palestinian activists, others – totally independent people, who were just curious what will happen,” the Bulgarian reporter continued, “I cannot say this was organized provocation, but the conditions for all this to occur were right there – it was like – let’s try to pass the blockade, and if we don’t succeed, let’s at least make headlines. But no one expected the toll that ended up being paid by the Turkish ship.”

The operator added that the captain told them the ship must stop before entering Gaza territorial waters and promised, since day one, to not risk their lives.

The two reiterated what they told reporters upon landing in Sofia Wednesday evening – being in an information blackout, without clean, cold drinking water, forced to drink hot one; without access to their luggage i.e. clean clothes and toiletries and without Vassilev’s high blood pressure medication, which had been seized by the Israeli authorities. In addition to their private belongings, the camera had also been confiscated. It remains unclear when everything would be returned to Ivanov and Vassilev, who say all cameras of all journalists were taken away and “what the world is seeing now is only the Israeli view point.”

The journalists expressed their gratitude to the Bulgarian Embassy in Israel for finding them and helping them, adding an Israeli service man greeted them with: “Welcome to Israel; we have prepared a great reception to our jails for you.”

Diplomacy | June 3, 2010, Thursday

Ivanov and Vassilev are now banned from visiting Israel in the next 10 years.

9 people, all reported to be Turkish citizens, have been killed after Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.

Israel declared Monday that the organizers of the flotilla, which tried to reach the Gaza Strip despite the Israel blockade, are terrorists connected to Hamas and Al-Queda. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, canceled his visit to Washington on Tuesday to return to Israel.

The attack sent shock waves of outrage in Palestine, Greece, and Turkey, while the EU and the UN demand full investigation of “what has happened.”

Sofia News Agency

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