Archive

Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

June 27, 2010 1 comment

Issue 254, Friday 25 June 2010 – 12 Rajab 1431

Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

By Elham Asaad Buaras


Dr Hasan Uysal assisted by IHH member Murat Akinan treating an Israeli commando (left) protestor displays photo of one of the aid worker killed by Israeli forces (right) injured Turkish aid workers return home. (R-bottom) Israeli commandos aim their weapons on aid workers

The Israeli Government is facing mounting international pressure to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip following the killing of 9 Turkish humanitarian aid workers by Israeli commandos in international waters.

The six aid flotillas, carrying 663 aid civilians from 37 countries were attempting to deliver the much needed aid and break the 3 year Israeli blockade affecting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Most of the passengers were Turkish, but it also included aid workers from the US, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Malaysia, Algeria and elsewhere.

Israeli commandos boarded all the ships, however on the lead ship, MV Mavi Marmara, 9 aid workers were killed; 48 were injured and 6 are still missing.

The Israeli forces’ aim was to prevent the aid from reaching the impoverished people in Gaza. However, renowned Swedish author Henning Mankell, 62, who was on board the MV Mavi Marmara said the Israeli navy had no right to demand a change of course.

“We were in international waters this was an act of pure piracy and taking our ships to Israel was kidnapping.

“If they really wanted to stop us, why did they not wait until we were close to their territorial waters, and say ‘You can’t go any further’?”
He added that Israel could have used less confrontational methods: “They could have very quickly taken out the rudder and the propeller of our ship. We would have been stuck. No one would have been hurt.”

The sequence of events is disputed. Passengers insist the Israelis opened fire before boarding, while Israelis say that they started firing after their soldiers were ambushed as they were landing on to the ship from the helicopters, and have released a video that shows events of the landing to back up their assertion.

However, aid workers maintained ‘selective’ footage was released by the Israeli officials and they also rubbished Israel’s claim of measured self defense. The autopsies of the victims revealed they were shot a total of 30 times; 5 were killed by gunshots to the head.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 60, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan, 19, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot 4 times, and 5 of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, according to Chair of the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), Haluk İnce, who carried out the autopsies.

An unnamed Israeli staff-sergeant in the Shayetet 13 Naval Special Forces unit told the Jerusalem Post he was immediately attacked when he reached the deck from a helicopter. He said he had not expected to find a “battlefield”.

However, British-born Al-Jazeera Producer, Jamal Elshayyal, said violence erupted when the Israelis opened fire before landing.

“One man was shot in the top of the head from the helicopter. He collapsed on the ground. I snatched a microphone from one of the Turkish reporters to say one man had been killed. As I did that another man was shot. Those people died instantly,”
Israeli commandos’ statements were refuted by all the aid workers on board including journalists, NGO members and even a former ambassador.

UK-based Friends of al-Aqsa Chair, Ismail Patel, who witnessed some of the fatal shootings, told The Muslim News Israel had operated a “shoot to kill policy”.

Patel who is British, calculated that during the altercations, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head just two feet in front him and another was shot once between the eyes.

He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds.

Patel said the deaths were avoidable. “We condemn the cold blooded murder” committed by the Israeli commandos, he said.

The Israelis attacked the ships using sound bombs, tear gas bombs, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunitions at dawn just after fajr (morning) prayers at 4.30am on May 30.

Another British Citizen, Alex Harrison, who was on the smaller US flagship, Challenger ship, told The Muslim News when the Israelis approached their boat, they used sound bombs, fired at them with rubber bullets, and

“we were treated with violence immediately. Women were thrown brutally around, our windows broken and we were thrown face down onto the broken glass.”

Their hands were tied with plastic clips and

“two women were hooded, they had their eyes taped.”

“We did not use violence.”

Harrison, 32, from Islington, North London, also challenged claims by the Israeli navy that their commandos were acting in self-defense once on board, insisting the Israelis started firing before their troops touched down on the boat from the helicopters as she witnesses from her boat.

“I’ve seen some selective footage that the Israelis have chosen to put out suggesting that we responded with violence,” she said. “You must remember that these were unarmed civilians on their own boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. People picked up what they could to defend themselves against armed, masked commandos who were shooting. The violence was initiated by the Israelis on a massive scale”.

Both Harrison and Patel slammed the British authorities for failing to assist while they were imprisoned in Be’er Sheva in Israel. Patel said he was not visited and Harrison said the consul told her that Israeli officials had prevented him visiting captured Britons.
Harrison said the British Consul told her that he had been sitting outside the prison all day asking for access and not been given it. “I see that as an insult from Israel to the British that they were denying the British consul the right that citizens have. I also see it as a sign that the British don’t have the strength to stand up to Israel.”

The information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel’s insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the passengers.

Passengers admitted fighting with the Israeli commandos and wresting away their guns, but defended their actions as self-defense saying the soldiers had opened live fire indiscriminately, but it was they who measured their reaction.

Former US marine Ken O’Keefe, who was on the MV Mavi Marmara, told Turkish and Israeli newspapers that he had helped disarm the commandos,

“The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy, we could have done with them whatever we wanted.”

The passengers also highlighted the fact that none of the Israeli commandos captured were killed, on the contrary, images released show the wounded Israeli’s being treated by the passengers.

Guns that were taken from the officers were emptied from their bullets and returned to them.

They also say the Israeli authorities confiscated their video equipment cameras and erased memory cards, which would have backed their version of events.

The Foreign Press Association have strongly condemned Israeli military’s use of photos and video material confiscated from foreign journalists.

New York-based Serbian cameraman, Srdjan Stojiljković, said Arab aid workers suffered “far worse treatment than us, from Europe or the West,” adding he had filmed the scenes, but the Israelis “took everything but documents” from journalists.

Retired American army colonel and former US Diplomat Ann Wright said, “They’ve probably stolen over a million dollars’ worth of cameras, computers, cell phones.”

“One woman was hit in the face, in the nose, with one of the liquid-filled balls [The Israelis] were very excessively rough, excessively forceful,”

Canadian citizen Kevin Neish said a Turkish man, who was holding a camera

“was shot directly through the forehead. The bullet, the exit wound, blew away the back third of his skull.”

Free Gaza Movement, (who organized the flotilla) rep on Mavi Marmara, Lubna Masarwa, said the Israeli navy had also refused calls for immediate aid to the seriously wounded:

“We were then held for several hours with four bodies and dozens of wounded some in critical condition. Blood was pouring from the bodies of the dead and the injured.
“One Turkish woman was crying and saying goodbye to the body of her dead husband, petting his face and reading the Qur’an over him. Another man had a bullet wound in his head and was dying.
“From 5am on, we were begging the Israeli navy to provide medical assistance to the wounded and dying but received no response.
“We made the request in English and Hebrew through the loud speaker and also wrote a large paper that said, ‘SOS, people dying, in need of immediate medical attention’ in Hebrew and put it on the window in front of them. They ordered the people with the sign to get lost,”

The convoy members insisted they had behaved more humanely and had given medical help to the commandos when they still had control of the flotilla.

Images of the disarmed commando being treated by Dr Hasan Huseyin Uysal along with other photo taken show bloodied and disarmed commandos in the custody of passengers inside the ship contradict Israeli suggestions that the aim of the passengers was to kill the soldiers.

Dr Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:

“First of all it’s illogical that these soldiers would not be killed but instead be taken to the medical center if the intention of the activists was to kill them. If people on board were so eager to hurt them, why would they not just shoot them to death once they had taken their guns? Why bother carting them inside for treatment? It just doesn’t add up.”

Despite claims by Israel Officials that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) members had initiated the violence, Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr Uysal in the photos of him treating a commando said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by IHH Director, Bulent Yildirim, who instructed him to

“make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.”

Dundee, Scotland, student Ali El-Awaisi, 21, was held in Be’er Sheva jail in Israel for 3 days after spending 12 hours on the captured boat. He said: “What happened on the boat was just horrific. Israeli soldiers were shooting people in the head from point-blank range.

“The walls of the ship were like waterfalls of blood and there were guys shot in front of my eyes.
“One Turkish man was shot between the eyes with a handgun from a few feet away, and when we docked in Ashdod the Israelis left his body in the sun for several days and then took photos of his decomposed corpse and gave them to his wife who was on the flotilla as well.”

He said those once they were captured,

“We were tortured. We had to kneel down with our hands tied behind our back for 12 hours under the sun and the soldiers would hit you with the rifle butts if you moved.”

Two of the aid workers detained by the Israeli forces have accused Israeli officers of using their credit cards.

Former US nurse and aid worker Kathy Sheetz has provided bank statements proving her bank card, taken by the Israeli forces during the attack, has since been used in Tel Aviv.

“It looks as though they tried to use it without the PIN code and could not, but they could use it in a vending machine and had multiple accesses to my card to buy beer, according to the statement,” Sheetz said.

“What it means is that I witnessed the Israeli Navy going and killing people and at the end buying beer with my card,” she added.

Italian journalist Manolo Luppichini discovered that while he was confined in Be’er Sheva and after he was back in Italy a day after his deportation – purchases were made with his credit card, which the Israeli authorities had confiscated.

One purchase was from a vending machine in Tel Aviv for about NIS 10 on June 2, he says. Another purchase, for NIS 240, was made in Gedera’s Village Market, while Luppichini himself was in Italy.

Luppichini has written a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the Foreign and Defense Ministers and to Israel’s Ambassador and consuls in Italy on the matter.

The passengers were mistreated and humiliated throughout. When they were taken on land in Ashdod, Israel, “we were treated roughly, manhandled, pushed around and we were treated with no dignity; we were mocked and laughed at. We pushed against our will by jeering soldiers who laughed and insulted us,” said Harrison.

She said that they were kept in prison vans for six hours to be taken to the airport, a journey that should take only half an hour. “Women were beaten unnecessary by soldiers, and whe they were being moved from place to place, they were being pushed around. On one occasion, they smacked two women around the head.”

She related how the Israeli soldiers at Ben Gurion airport beat up the passengers. “When we were at the airport, people were beaten for speaking. We were trying to speak to our male colleagues. I tired to speak to one of them Ken O’Keefe, who was tackled to the ground and held down by a dozen soldiers.”

The UN Security Council condemned “those acts resulting in civilian deaths,” demanded an impartial investigation of the raid, and called for the immediate release of civilians held by Israel. However the resolution was watered down by US objections. The resolution did not ask for an independent investigation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israel to conduct a “prompt, impartial and transparent” investigation that complies with international standards and get the facts but refused to allow international independent investigators.

US Vice President, Joe Biden, offered the US’s strongest defence of Benjamin Netanyahu Government saying, “Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest.”
Appearing on US TV Biden defended Israel’s actions as “legitimate”. After suggesting the cargo of aid could have been unloaded elsewhere, Biden dismissed international criticism, asking: “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?”

According to the British Foreign Office, 37 British nationals, including 11 dual-nationals were passengers in the flotilla.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Parliament that the raid was “completely unacceptable”. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner fell short of calling for an international inquiry.
The pair issued a joint statement after meeting Paris: “We think it is very important that there is a credible and transparent investigation. We believe there should be an international presence at minimum in that inquiry or investigation.”
Hague called on the Israeli Government to open the crossing to unfettered access for aid to enter Gaza.

At least four Scots were caught up in the raid prompting Scotland’s First Minister to dub Israel’s actions as “insupportable”.

Alex Salmond said the Scottish National Party’s opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza has the support of an overwhelming majority of Ministers in the Scottish Parliament: “This Parliament should speak with, certainly the overwhelming majority, in saying that the Israeli action is unacceptable, is insupportable and should stop forthwith. I’ve written to the Israeli Ambassador in the strongest possible terms.”

Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said: “Such actions against a civilian ship are unacceptable…These actions in neutral waters raise special concerns and, undoubtedly, demand a thorough investigation.”

Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gül said, “Israel has made one of the most glaring mistakes in its history, for which it will repent”. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to hold Israel to account over its “state terror” as tens of thousands protested in Turkey against the deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

Erdoğan said, “We object to those who force the people of Gaza to live in an open-air prison… We will stand firm until the blockade on Gaza is lifted, the massacres cease and the state terror in the Middle East is accounted for.” Despite the strong rhetoric by Gül and Erdoğan; Turkey is not severing its ties with Israel.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the country’s long economic and military ties to Israel were “on the table for discussion” but refused to promise a definitive break with Israel.

“To assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state,” said Arınç.
Turkey’s defence ministry, which is in the middle of the purchase of 10 Heron drones, said it would continue to take delivery of Israeli weapons shipments.

Muslim Aid joined many charities in calling for Israel to allow international NGOs into Gaza. A spokesman for the UK-based international relief agency told The Muslim News, “Just as charity workers and NGOs are rightfully required not to mix their humanitarian work with politics, and states should act responsibly by recognizing the work of aid workers and enabling them to reach the people to meet their legitimate humanitarian needs.”

Source

3 Aid Flotilla Activists Missing, Says Turkish Charity Head Bulent Yildirim

Thursday, June 3, 2010 ISTANBUL –

Funeral prayers are held in Istanbul for eight of the nine people killed on a Gaza aid flotilla as families around the country mourn their dead. At least three activists are still missing, the group that organized the flotilla says, vowing to send larger convoys to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

At least three members of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that was attacked by Israeli commandos are still missing, the group that organized the convoy said Thursday as funeral prayers were given for eight slain activists.

“We have a longer list. There are still people who are missing,” Bülent Yıldırım, the head of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, one of the main organizers of the flotilla, told reporters at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport.

“Our doctors handed over to Israel 38 people who were injured, but they told us there were only 21 injured when we were returning.”

The İHH leader also said the group would send larger convoys to end the embargo on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yıldırım and hundreds of other activists returned early Thursday to a hero’s welcome in Istanbul. About 1,000 people, some chanting anti-Israeli slogans, packed the city’s airport in the middle of the night to greet the planes carrying them back from Israel.

Seven planes were used to deport 527 activists to Turkey and Greece, said Israeli interior ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad, adding that seven other activists remained in Israeli hospitals for treatment of wounds suffered during the Israeli raid. Another plane brought 31 Greeks, three French nationals and one American to Athens.

The first plane contained the bodies of eight Turks and a U.S. national of Turkish origin. All were shot dead in the Israeli raid, according to forensic experts. The nationalities of the victims were determined after post-mortem examinations at a forensic institute in Istanbul, the Anatolia news agency reported. Forensic experts found bullet marks on all the bodies and determined that one was shot at close range.

The exact circumstances of the activists’ deaths are expected to become clear in a ballistics examination that will take about a month to complete.

The 19 wounded activists deported from Israel also suffered from gunshot wounds, according to the chief doctor of the Ankara hospital treating them. “The patients generally have serious injuries to their chests, abdomens and limbs. What we have is mostly gun wounds,” Metin Doğan said in televised remarks.

Israel charges that the passengers on the boat attacked its soldiers, but organizers of the flotilla say Israeli forces started firing as soon as they landed on the ship.

Families mourn

Funeral prayers for eight of the nine people killed onboard the Mavi Marmara were held at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on Thursday. The coffins of Cengiz Akyüz, Ali Haydar Bengi, İbrahim Bilgen, Furkan Doğan, Cengiz Songür, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Fahri Yaldız and Necdet Yıldırım were wrapped in Turkish flags. The crowd at the funeral chanted anti-Israel slogans before and after the prayers. The funeral prayer for journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar, an İHH member, will be held at the same mosque Friday.

Families of the victims also mourned in various provinces of the country. Photographs of Bilgen, who was a mayoral candidate from the Saadet, or Felicity, Party in the March 2009 local elections, were hung over busy streets in the eastern province of Siirt.

In Adana, Cumali Topçuoğlu, the brother of 54-year-old victim Çetin Topçuoğlu, said family members were happy because their brother had become a “martyr.”

In Diyarbakır, a condolence tent was erected in front of the Ulu Mosque for Bengi, the father of four children.

An official from the İHH identified 19-year-old Doğan, originally from the central Turkish town of Kayseri, as the U.S. national among the victims. Doğan, who held an American passport, had four bullet wounds to the head and one to the chest, according to the İHH’s Ömer Yağmur. The bodies were handed over to the victim’s relatives after the autopsies.

The United Nations and the European Union have harshly criticized Israel after its commandos stormed the six-ship flotilla in international waters, setting off the clashes. About 700 activists – including 400 Turks – were trying to break the Israeli and Egyptian naval blockade by bringing in 10,000 tons of aid.

Eyewitness accounts

Two Swedes aboard the aid flotilla intercepted by Israeli forces this week said they had witnessed “premeditated murder.”

“We were witnesses to premeditated murders,”

historian Mattias Gardell told Swedish public radio Thursday upon arrival in Istanbul.

“This was a military attack on a humanitarian aid operation far out in international waters,” said Gardell, a Swedish activist who was on the Mavi Marmara along with his wife, fellow historian Edda Manga, during the attack. “It was a very surprising and aggressive overreaction by Israel.”

Kuwait citizen Ali Buhamd said he saw a wounded Turkish citizen getting shot in the head. “The soldiers also left another Turk to bleed to death despite [his] calls for help,” he added.

Shane Dillon from Ireland, from the crew of the ship Challenger 1, said he witnessed some volunteers being beaten up and a Belgian woman’s nose being broken.

Of five Australians on the Gaza flotilla, two – journalists Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, who was injured by a stun gun during the Israeli raid – have returned to Turkey, daily The Australian reported on its website Thursday. Three others – Ahmed Luqman, who was shot in the leg, his wife, Jerry Campbell, and his sister Maryam Luqman – are reportedly still in Israel

Source

Four Lebanese flotilla passengers return home

‘Freedom Fleet’ members cross border at Naqoura
By Wassim Mroueh and Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Thursday, June 03, 2010

BEIRUT: Four Lebanese passengers of an aid fleet bound for Gaza were released by Israeli authorities on Wednesday.

Lebanese activists Hussein Shukor, Hani Sleiman and Al-Jazeera journalists Abbas Nasser and Andre Abou Khalil entered the Lebanese territories via the Naqoura border crossing.

On Sunday night, Israel’s navy stopped six ships dubbed “The Freedom Fleet” ferrying 700 people and 10,000 tons of supplies toward Gaza strip. A Turkish vessel was attacked by Israeli commandos, killing at least nine activists. The captured vessels were escorted into Israel’s port of Ashdod.

The passengers who came from different states are being deported by Israeli authorities. Six Lebanese passengers were aboard the “Freedom Fleet.”

Issam Zaatar, a carrier of a Lebanese-Belgian dual nationality, had left Israel for Brussels Tuesday morning.

Reports said Nabil Hallak, a Lebanese who holds an Irish passport will be deported by the Israeli authorities to Ireland.

Nasser, meanwhile, has been working for Al-Jazeera television since 2004.

The 34-year-old journalist has served in Al-Manar and Al-Alam TV stations along with Bahrain radio station.

As for 61-year-old Hani Sleiman, the lawyer was injured during the Israeli attack on the Turkish ship. He was also among the passengers of the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel that tried to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in February 2009.

The ship was held by the Israeli authorities and its passengers deported to their countries. Sleiman occupied senior posts in the Baath Party between 1966 and 1974 and has joined a number of associations. Sleiman is married and has three children.

Hussein Shukor lost his wife and four children when his home was hit by Israeli jets in 2006 summer Israeli war against Lebanon.

He also planned to join the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel but failed to do so.

Israel’s step drew waves of criticism from many states and international organizations.

Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan urged the immediate lifting of “the inhumane embargo on Gaza” on Tuesday.

“Israel’s behavior should definitely, definitely be punished,” Erdogan told a meeting of his parliamentary deputies, adding: “The time has come for the international community to say enough.”

Meanwhile, rallies protesting the Israeli storming of the “Freedom Fleet” continued in Beirut on Wednesday.

A sit-in was held by various Lebanese political parties along with Palestinian factions near the ESCWA headquarters in downtown Beirut.

The gathering was called by head of Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt.

The sit-in was attended by members of March 8 and March 14 camps, two rival political groups.

Participants in the sit-in decided to forward petitions conveying their united stance against the aggression to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa and ambassadors of member states in the Security Council.

PSP official Sharif Fayyad outlined to the crowds the content of a petition that was handed to UN Media Center Director Bahaa Al-Qousi. The letter slammed “Israeli aggressiveness” calling it a “natural product of the racist Zionist culture.”

The demonstrators urged the Security Council to deter the ongoing Israeli aggression against civilians that “didn’t spare volunteers from different races trying to deliver aid to Palestinians besieged by Israel.”

They also called upon the Security Council to lift of the blockade on Gaza, impose sanctions on Israel and force it to pay compensations for the “humane and social” disasters it provoked.

Also, around 5,000 individuals gathered Wednesday afternoon near Fatima gate in the border village of Kfar- Kila protesting Israel’s aggression on Gaza’s aid fleet.

The Hizbullah-arranged gathering was attended by the party’s MP Ali Fayyad and Baaath Party MP Qassem Hashem along with a number of local figures.

Reports said the demonstrators remained near the Israeli-Lebanese borders until the Lebanese passengers were released.

Mossad photographed Rachel Corrie before it left Dundalk

derek graham

ISRAELI intelligence agents photographed members of the Rachel Corrie aid mission before the ship left dock in Dundalk, the first mate of the vessel has claimed

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Derek Graham maintained that during their time in Israeli custody they saw photographs of several members of the group clearly taken in Ireland.
“They had people in Dundalk taking pictures. I would say it is standard. They would be either Mossad or IDF intelligence,” he said.

“There was a picture of Jenny [his wife] and when she saw it she knew it was taken in Dundalk because of the background. That is where we bought the ship and got it ready and got it loaded.”

The claims are significant in light of the recent controversy surrounding a suspected Mossad operation in Dubai in which Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated.

Those involved in the murder used fake passports, some of which had authentic Irish serial numbers.

“It wasn’t startling because we had an idea that we were being watched,” said Graham.

“I have done this [humanitarian aid missions] for three years and I had them outside my house in Cyprus and following us to the shops.

“I don’t mind the ones that you can see – they are there for intimidation or just to let you know [you are being watched]. But it’s the ones you can’t see that I don’t like.”

Graham believes the Israeli authorities had carried out considerable research on the party before they left for Gaza.

Aside from photographing members of the aid mission, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) was also aware of the original name of the MV Rachel Corrie and refused to address it by its new one.

“They had their research done to know it was called the MV Linda before we renamed it,” he said.

Nobody in the Israeli embassy could be reached for comment yesterday.

Labour’s spokesman on foreign affairs, Michael D Higgins said that such actions could be seen as a potential diplomatic incident.

“If it was true, and taken in the context of all the other actions that have taken place [involving clandestine Israeli operations], it has to be part of the judgement of Micheál Martin in terms of what is done on the passport issue,” he said.

“It would be of the same category of action and impropriety as the use of Irish passports [by Israeli agents]. These are not the actions of countries with friendly diplomatic relations.”

tribune.ie

Irish man denies Gaza activists armed

irishtimes.com – Last Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 18:11

Shane Dillon
An Irishman who was part of a Gaza bound aid flotilla raided by the Israeli Defence Forces https://flotillamassacrepassengers.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phptoday said he saw nothing to suggest any of the peace activists were in possession of weapons.

Shane Dillion, from Blackrock in Dublin, said the fire fighting defences of the flotilla’s largest ship, the Mavi Marmara , were activated when the commandos attempted to board, as was the norm for pirate attacks, and that rubbish bins were thrown from the deck.

He rejected Israeli claims that some of the activists were armed during the attack which killed at least nine people.

“Any of the weapons I have seen demonstrated by the Israeli defence forces were typical equipment that you would have on a ship,” said Mr Dillon, a member of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

“There was a knife for a galley. They also showed a sledgehammer, which would be on a merchant vessel for anchor cables etc. There was nothing on display to show there were any weapons.”

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin today, Mr Dillon said there was a screening system and electronic detectors onboard the largest boat in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara ,  to check it passengers for weapons. He returned from Israel last night.

Mr Dillon, who was travelling on the Challenger 1 in the flotilla, said when the Israeli commandos boarded the ship the activists engaged in “purely non violent and verbal protection” to allow him time to get video footage of the attack uploaded to the internet.

He said the Israeli’s initially focused their attention on the journalist onboard as it appeared they did not want footage, photographs or reports of what had transpired to be released.

Mr Dillon said he was disgusted at the behaviour of the Israeli defence forces. “To my mind it is an act of piracy – a terrorist act in international waters on a flotilla of people involved in peaceful humanitarian aid mission to Gaza,” he said.

He also said he feared for the safety of the other activists. “We could see the stun grenades going off, we could hear the tasers being deployed. They were also firing high power paintball guns at the passengers and crew of the Mavi Marmara .”

He said commandos boarded the Challenger 1 with force and fired taser and paintball guns as well as hitting people with the butts of their riles.

Irish Times

Campaigners feared for lives in ‘brutal’ ordeal

Fiachra O'Luain

By Shane Hickey

Saturday June 05 2010

TWO Irish campaigners deported from Israel told yesterday how they were beaten and repeatedly threatened while in custody after they were taken from the flotilla of boats that has caused international controversy.

Fiachra O Luain (28) and Dr Fintan Lane (43) arrived back in Dublin airport yesterday and said they had both feared for their lives during the incident, which resulted in their deportation from Israel to Turkey.

Mr O Luain said he was “brutalised” while in custody in Ben Gurion Airport and said there were bruises all around his body.

When he was initially taken from the boat, he refused to talk to anyone apart from a lawyer. he said.

“As soon as one of them grabbed me, about 15 or 20 jumped me, kicked me, punched me as soon as I hit the ground,”

“They had my arm in stress positions, they tried to break my finger.”

He said he feared for his life during his time in custody and at one stage asked to see a rabbi.

“I asked to see a rabbi and they told me I would only see a rabbi when they killed me,”

He said they were repeatedly threatened and he had his passport taken from him.

His mother Eleanor Lamb said last Monday — when the boats were raided — had been “absolute hell”.

Both he and Dr Lane, who were on board the Challenger vessel, were welcomed into Dublin airport by a crowd from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

Hyenas

Dr Lane, a historian from Co Cork, said he had refused to sign any documentation from the Israeli security services and repeated that he was being kept in the country against his will.

When the vessel he was on was stormed, he said the Israeli boats surrounded their vessel “like hyenas” and at one point a soldier told him to move a few inches with such aggression that he believed his life was under threat. “I believe that soldier would have shot me,” he said.

Another man who holds an Irish passport and was on board the vessels, Isam Bin Ali, described the Israelis as being “like mafia” during the storming of the flotilla.

– Shane Hickey

Irish Independent

Two Activists Describe Raid and Deny Israeli Claim They Are ‘Terrorist Operatives’

Two pro-Palestinian activists who were raised in the United States, and who were on board the main ship in the flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza last week when it was raided by Israeli commandos, have denied a claim by Israel’s military that they are “involved in terrorist activity.”

Fatima Mohammadi, an American lawyer from Chicago, and Ken O’Keefe, a former American marine, were both on a list of “Active Terror Operatives,” posted on the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday. The I.D.F. statement, which named five passengers on board the Mavi Marmara “known to be involved in terrorist activity,” included factual errors about both Ms. Mohammadi and Mr. O’Keefe.

The Israeli statement misspelled Ms. Mohammadi’s first and last names, calling her “Fatimah Mahmadi”; said she is “an active member of the organization ‘Viva Palestine’ ” — she is a former employee of Viva Palestina; and called her “a United States resident of Iranian origin.” She is an American citizen who was born in Tehran in 1979 and moved — with her American mother and Iranian father — to Boise, Idaho, after the Iranian revolution that year.

In an e-mail interview on Tuesday, Ms. Mohammadi — whose Facebook page lists “Rabble Rousing” under “Activities” — told The Lede that the Israeli authorities made no such claims to her while she was in their custody, “though they were very interested in the fact that I was born in Iran.” She added:

I saw the statement on Sunday afternoon after I arrived in the U.S. and I was shocked. On one hand, it’s incredibly comical because it’s so illegitimate and unfounded, but on the other hand, I am angered that they would attempt to discredit humanitarian aid workers in such a fear-based manner.

The Israeli statement also claimed that Ms. Mohammadi “attempted to smuggle forbidden electronic components into the Gaza Strip.” Ms. Mohammadi said:

I have no idea what they’re referring to as the only electronics I had in my possession or in my bag were personal items: a camera, a video camera, and my personal phones. All electronics, including laptops, were confiscated at our arrest while on board the ship and none have been returned. Any cameras that did make their way to Turkey were either smashed or, at the very least, stripped of their memory cards.

She also said that she witnessed the deadly commando raid on the ship:

I was on the top deck (fifth deck) when the shooting began and stayed up until a cameraman about 2 meters away from me was shot twice in the arm. After I took him to the medical deck and helped there, I scurried between the second, third and fourth decks, slipping on blood all the way. Most of my time was spent on the medical deck, however, tending to the victims of the massacre. Two men died in front of me.

The I.D.F. statement called the other activist, Ken O’Keefe, “an American and British citizen.” The Irish Times reported on Tuesday: “Mr. O’Keefe, who lives in London, has carried an Irish passport since 2003 due to his grandmother, from Listowel, Co. Kerry. He has never taken British citizenship and says he renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2001.”

Mr. O’Keefe is well-known in Britain for his antiwar activism. In 2003, he  appeared on the BBC to explain why he had volunteered to serve as a human shield in Iraq to try to prevent an American attack.

On Tuesday, The Times of London explained:

The words inked into the right hand of the 1991 Gulf War veteran — “U.S. Expatriot, 01-03-01, R.I.P.” — mark the date that he renounced his U.S. citizenship after what he called a taste of military injustice. Mr. O’Keefe said that he was subjected to institutional bullying in the U.S. Marine Corps after he went over the head of his commanding officer to report an unspecified infraction.

The Israeli military’s statement said that he is “a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organization. He attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization.”

Mr. O’Keefe angrily denied these charges in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s Ynet News Web site reported on Monday that Mr. O’Keefe told Hurryiet, a Turkish newspaper, that he had helped to capture two of the commandos as soon as they landed on the ship. He said, “The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy — we could have done with them whatever we wanted.” He also said he had helped to disarm one of the commandos: “I took one of their guns, and another activist grabbed him. He had a 9mm gun. We didn’t use the weapons against the Israeli soldiers. I unloaded the magazine and took out the bullets — we didn’t come here to fight.”

Eventually, he added, the activists decided to release the soldiers unharmed. “They looked at us, and thought we were about to kill them, but then we let them go,” he said.

Mr. O’Keefe later gave Ynet a longer account of the raid in an interview with the Israeli newspaper.

NY Times