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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.

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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.

German activists deny attack on soldiers

BERLIN, Agence France-Presse · Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2010

...

Activists yesterday claimed they offered no violence and no resistance as Israeli troops stormed the Gaza aid flotilla.

Israel has blamed activists on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, for the deadly outcome to Monday’s pre-dawn raid, saying they attacked soldiers with clubs and knives as they boarded.

A group of German witnesses who experienced the assault first hand before being detained and deported denied anyone on board was armed with more than a few wooden sticks.
Norman Paech
Norman Paech, a 72-year-old former member of parliament told reporters in Berlin.”The Israeli government justifies the raid because they were attacked. This is absolutely not the case,” said Mr. Paech. “This was not an act of self-defence.”

Matthias Jochheim
A German doctor on the ship, Matthias Jochheim, who had bloodstains on his trousers from people he treated, said he had personally seen

four dead people and expected the total death toll to be 15.

The Israeli military says nine passengers were killed in the fight.

Mr. Paech, a former MP from the far-left Die Linke party, said he took photographic evidence but that his camera had been confiscated.

He denied Israel’s suggestion that passengers had been lying in ambush.

“We had not prepared in any way to fight. We didn’t even consider it,” he added. “No violence, no resistance — because we knew very well that we would have absolutely no chance against soldiers like this. This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission … This was a clear act of piracy.”

,

“We felt like we were in a war, like we were being kidnapped,”

said another MP Inge Hoeger, 59.

“Nobody had a weapon.”

Greece
A Greek activist on one of the smaller boats, the Eleftheri Mesogeio, said Israeli troops used rubber bullets, tear gas and electroshock weapons to subdue those aboard.

Commandos jumped onto the ship about an hour after the clashes on the Mavi Marmara, he said.

“They fired rubber coated bullets, tear gas and then used electroshock weapons on some activists,” he told Skai television after Israel deported him and five compatriots to Athens.
France Flag
A Frenchman detained on another of the six ships told reporters his fellow passengers offered no resistance to arrest.

“The instructions were clear. Do not provoke, remain calm and go to meet them [the commandos] saying ‘We are pacifists and not terrorists,’

Youssef Benderbal said after arriving at a Paris airport.

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‘Troops boarded and ship turned into a lake of blood’

By Elena Becatoros and Suzan Fraser in Athens
Wednesday June 02 2010
Nefin

Activists returning to Europe after Israeli forces raided their aid flotilla said last night that the commandos had beaten passengers and used electric shocks during the assault.

Six Greeks and several others, including a Turkish woman and her one-year-old baby, were released yesterday, but Israel has barred access to hundreds of other people seized during the raid that killed at least nine and wounded dozens early on Monday morning.

Most of those killed were aboard the Turkish-flagged ‘Mavi Marmara’, and there have been conflicting accounts of what happened during the assault.

Turkish activist Nilufer Cetin, who had hidden with her baby, Turker Kaan, in her cabin’s bathroom, told reporters that she believed there were 11 dead.

“The ship turned into a lake of blood,”

Ms Cetin told reporters in Istanbul, having returned after Israeli officials warned that jail would be too harsh for her child.

She said she was aware of the possible danger of joining the trip but “there are thousands of babies in Gaza. If we had reached Gaza we would have played with them and taken them food”.

She said Israeli vessels “harassed” the flotilla for two hours starting at around 10pm on Sunday, and returned at around 4am on Monday, firing warning shots and telling the ships to turn back.

“When the ‘Mavi Marmara’ continued on its course the harassment turned into an attack,” said Ms Cetin.

“They used smoke bombs followed by gas canisters. They started to descend on to the ship with helicopters.” The clashes that then erupted were “extremely bad and brutal”.

She added that the Israeli authorities had taken their telephones and laptops.

Her husband, Ekrem Cetin — the ship’s engineer — was still being held by the Israelis last night.

Some 400 Turkish activists were on the six-ship flotilla, along with more than 30 Greeks and people of some 20 other countries including Germany, the US and Russia.

The ships had been trying to break the three-year blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid, the activists said.

Dimitris Gielalis, who had been aboard the ‘Sfendoni’, said the attack happened very suddenly.

“Suddenly, from everywhere we saw inflatables coming at us, and within seconds fully equipped commandos came up on the boat,”

said Mr Gielalis, one of six Greeks who was deported from Israel yesterday.

“They came up and used plastic bullets. We had beatings, we had electric shocks,” he said.

He claimed the boat’s captain was beaten for refusing to leave the wheel, while a cameraman filming the raid was hit with a rifle butt in the eye.

The returning Greeks said those still in custody were refusing to sign papers demanded by the Israeli authorities.

“During their interrogation, many of them were badly beaten in front of us,”

said Aris Papadokostopoulos, who was aboard the ‘Free Mediterranean’ that was travelling behind the ‘Mavi Marmara’.

Mr Papadokostopoulos said the flotilla was about 130 kilometres off Gaza when the raid occurred.

Aboard the other boats, he said, commandos beat activists, but nobody was gravely injured.

He said no one put up resistance on the ‘Free Mediterranean’, which was carrying a cargo of wheelchairs, building material and medical and pharmaceutical aid.

Crew member Mihalis Grigoropoulos said he was on the bridge of the ‘Free Mediterranean’ and heard shooting coming from the Turkish ship.

Several people who tried to stop the Israeli forces from getting to the bridge were hit by electric shocks and plastic bullets, he said. “We didn’t resist at all. Even if we had wanted to, what could we do?”

– Elena Becatoros and Suzan Fraser in Athens

Irish Independent