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“There was a lot of blood in the stairwells and then the sound of ammunition hitting metal changed again…

PAUL MCGEOUGH

June 5, 2010

Israeli commandos are met by angry protesters wielding weapons.Israeli commandos are met by angry protesters wielding weapons. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Mustafa Ahmet, a 33-year-old Londoner, is irreverent as he recollects events. Having completed his ablutions, he joined a big group engaged in morning prayers on the aft deck of the Mavi Marmara as it pushed south in the Mediterranean. But then a cry went up – “They’re here! They’re here!”

”They” were Israeli commandos coming alongside the Turkish passenger ferry in their assault craft. But the imam leading the prayers was unmoved. Instead of cutting proceedings short, he seemed to go on forever. As Ahmet observed the commandos’ arrival, “it was like a scary movie – their helmets were shiny, the sea was shiny and battleships sat off on either side. But the imam just kept on, holding us in position – it was bonkers.”

Elsewhere, the ship was being prepared – people were distributing lifejackets and taking up positions on the rails. Others were preparing to throw Israeli sound bombs and tear gas canisters back to where they came from. Groups had been rostered through the night, to sleep or be at the ready, and electric angle-grinders were brought in – to cut steel bars from the lifeboat bays along the main decks.

The photographs that got away  ... Israeli commandos board the Mavi Marmar.The photographs that got away … Israeli commandos board the Mavi Marmar. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Despite thoughts of what might lie ahead, there was good humour. Matthias Gardel, a key figure in the Swedish delegation, was getting used to his lifejacket, unaware that even though it was 3am back home, his 12-year-old daughter was out of bed and watching a live-feed video from the ship on the Free Gaza Movement’s website. Seeing him in the video, she shot him an email: “Dad, take it off – you look ridiculous.” To which he fired back: “It’s past your bedtime.”

Ahmet was perplexed.

“We were a convoy of peace. But the Israeli choppers overhead, the smoke grenades … all the screaming, all the noise. People were running all ways and there was blood everywhere. But before we could do anything it was all over.”

But it was not all over. Two days before the Israeli assault – in which nine activists were killed by Israeli gunfire and up to 30 more wounded – the bullet-headed Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish non-government relief agency IHH, which in effect ran the flotilla, did an interview with the Herald aboard the Mavi Marmara.

He explained that Israel could not afford to pay the price of the disaster that he confidently predicted the Jewish state would make in its efforts to intercept the convoy.

Failure would add to the litany – the Gaza war and the Goldstone report; the Hamas assassination in Dubai and world anger over the abuse of the passports of several nations, including Australia. Now there was this high-seas venture on the eve of a meeting between President Barack Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which was supposed to dilute the bad blood generated by the recent announcement of settlement expansion while the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, was in Israel.

It has been a spectacular week in the Mediterranean, with the Israeli government being the butt of domestic and international criticism for a botched mission against an unarmed, humanitarian convoy. Inevitably, there will be an inquiry – domestic or international; perhaps a mix of the two.

European diplomats in Tel Aviv openly scoffed at the government’s claim that the flotilla organisers had ties to al-Qaeda. One told the Herald that if such a claim was the government’s best opening shot, then it had a serious credibility problem.

Each side is documenting its case against the other. The flotilla organisers accuse the Netanyahu government of hijacking their vessels in international waters – killing and wounding in the process; of then taking almost 700 humanitarians and peace activists prisoner and forcibly taking them to Israel – and then charging them with illegal entry to the country. There will be hundreds of witnesses.

But, at an inquiry, the organisers will face government allegations that steel bars were used to beat troops; that weapons confiscated from captured commandos may have been used against their comrades.

The threads of an Israeli case, being leaked selectively in the Israeli media, argue that 60 to 100 ”hard-core” activists had been embedded on the Mavi Marmara. They included Turks, Afghans, Yemenis and an Eritrean, experienced in hand-to-hand fighting.

Yesterday, the Israeli navy claimed three commandos had been dragged unconscious into one of the ship’s halls ”for several minutes” before regaining consciousness and escaping. It was not clear whether any of them were among three commandos who the activists on board the Mavi Marmara have said were beaten, then sheltered and given medical treatment.

However, the flotilla crisis is not just about Israel. The virtual takeover of what was a coalition of groups from a dozen countries by Turkish non-government organisations plays into regional politics.

Long an Israeli ally, Turkey is flexing its muscles regionally, bonding with Syria, Iran, Iraq, Qatar and Hamas – and at the same time awkwardly exposing the Arab world’s about-faces on the Palestinian cause and, by its demonstrable actions, almost shaming them to do more.

Tucked in under all this is Washington’s role in the region. The rest of the world was quick to criticise Israel in the aftermath of the flotilla fiasco but the Obama White House lamely called for an Israeli inquiry, the kind of response that placates Israel but erodes US credibility in the region.

Some on the ship thought the Israelis did not put enough into their opening shots.

Espen Goffeng, a Norwegian, said: “I looked over the rail and saw the zodiacs. It seemed hopeless for the Israelis – they tried to lock on their grappling hooks but they were hit by the fire hoses and their own projectiles going back to them.”

He wondered if the boats had been a decoy to draw passengers to the rails while helicopters were used to land Israeli commandos higher on the ship. But that proved difficult, too, with the first two loads of chopper-borne commandos captured by the activists.

“The first ammunition I heard striking the ship sounded like paint balls,” Goffeng said. “But some people said there had to be glass in them, because of the wounds they caused. There was a lot of blood in the stairwells and then the sound of the ammunition hitting metal changed again – I decided that was the live ammunition. People were yelling, ‘Live ammo! Live ammo!'”

He said people in the television broadcast area on the aft deck were being targeted.

“I helped to carry one of the dead down to the second deck and as I returned a man who had been shot in the leg was being carried down. And when I moved to the press room, one of the men who worked there was dead, with a hole in his forehead and half his head missing.

”Then there was an announcement on the PA system telling us, ‘Keep calm; it’s over … they have taken the ship and we have lost.'”

Soon after, Israeli soldiers smashed the doors to the press room, the Herald was told, and then called the media workers forward one at a time. “They searched us,” said a cameraman who had unpicked the waistband of his underpants sufficiently to create mini-pockets in which he successfully secreted most of his camera’s discs – a strip-search revealed just one. ”They took cell phones and hard drives … and anything else that was capable of capturing or storing images.”

On the open decks and in the saloons lower in the ship, conditions were far less pleasant than the press room.

Gardel, the Swede with the fashion-conscious daughter, complained of people being forced to kneel for hours on the open deck area where prayers were held. An Israeli helicopter hovered constantly, its downdraft spraying the prisoners with wind and water, in the circumstances a freezing combination. “Keeping the choppers there seemed to be deliberate, as though they wanted to enfeeble us by holding us in such unpleasant conditions,” he said.

People were not allowed to go to the lavatories – they were made to soil their clothes. Gardel was especially horrified by witnessing the experience of a badly wounded man in his late 50s, who the Israeli troops forced to remain on the open deck.

“Suddenly, his right eye exploded in a gush of blood – and a blob of something fell out of it.”

The Israeli troops had come prepared. The Canadian activist Kevin Neish found a booklet which he believed had been dropped by one of the Israelis – it contained images of the key leaders, including Yildirim and the nerves-of-steel Palestinian woman who headed the Free Gaza Movement, Huwaida Arraf, a 34-year-old lawyer.

On being off-loaded at Ashdod, Arraf was last seen by the Herald being frogmarched away from the detainee processing centre where her activist confreres were put through a chaotic maze of bureaucratic and security checkpoints.

By the time the ship reached Ashdod, the passengers complained that most of their cases and other baggage had been strewn on the inside decks.

There was an infectious camaraderie among the protesters on the flotilla – bound by politics, prayer and song, it was a finishing school for almost 700 new and articulate ambassadors from dozens of countries for the Palestinian cause. And the Netanyahu government has given them a story to tell. As with Mossad’s assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January, halting the Free Gaza Flotilla was regarded as a tactical success that, in hindsight, appears to have been a strategic disaster. The cost to Israel’s international credibility and legitimacy is great.

And these new advocates for Palestine are going home prepared – many of the women prisoners were observed recording detailed accounts of their experience – with timelines and explanatory graphics.

Launching into their spiel back home, they will be better received than they might have been last week because of the tenor of the international trenchant criticism of Israel. The images broadcast around the world, despite Israel’s best efforts, dovetailed with the colourful rhetoric of the likes of Anne Jones, a former American diplomat and US Army colonel who cut through efforts by some diplomats to find words with precise legal meanings to describe what Israel had perpetrated.

“The Israel Defence Forces acted as pirates in shooting at us and stealing our ships in international waters,” she told the Herald. “They kidnapped us and brought us to Israel; they arrested and imprisoned us; they paraded us before cameras in violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

Jerry Campbell awoke at 4am to attend dawn prayers but she had hardly bowed her head before she was dragged off to a nursing station to help treat four gunshot victims. Worse was in store for this naif from Queensland’s Gold Coast – “I looked up as I was caring for a wounded Indonesian and saw my husband being carried in.” That was Ahmed Luqman Talib, 20, who had been shot in the leg. She cut his blood-soaked clothing away but then followed his instructions to tend to others. “I’m OK,” he told her.

She lost count of the number and nationalities of those she tended to –

“I saw two men die out there … the floor was covered in blood and the IV units were tied to the ceiling with bandages.”

Campbell went to and from her husband, who seemed to be deteriorating.

“One man’s stomach was opened – his intestines were out and the doctor reached inside and pulled out some bullets, before pushing everything back in and wrapping him up,” she said. “I don’t know if he survived.”

Late on the second day in detention, Israeli officials showed 45-year-old Gigdem Topcuoghe, a Turkish woman, a picture of her dead husband – she became catatonic. At the Ela Prison in Beersheva, she recounted to her fellow inmate, the Herald photographer Kate Geraghty, how during the attack on the Mavi Marmara she had found her husband on the floor. Shot in the forehead, he was bleeding from his mouth and nose.

“I think of first aid – I need to help him. I checked his breathing … he was bleeding faster. I gave him some water and started praying for him – I held him in my arms. He wasn’t conscious – I held him tight, but I realised he was gone when he didn’t react in any way, but my husband is not dead – he will live with and among us.”

Several witnesses have recounted in awe how Topcuoghe accepted condolences briefly – before leaving her husband’s body to throw herself into helping the injured.

Later in Israeli detention, the new widow addressed her tearful friends, turning to the state of Israel. Describing the assault on the Mavi Marmara as inhuman, she urged Allah to show the people of Israel the right path, but added:

“May they face more cruelty than we have and when this happens we’ll be there to help them – and to take humanitarian aid to them, just like centuries back when the Ottoman sultan sent aid and ships to rescue the Jews from Spanish cruelty …”

Brief as it was, time spent inside the Israeli apparatus was revealing. Whenever the flotilla prisoners were processed, security and other workers gathered to gawp – frequently producing mobile phones to shoot happy snaps of themselves in front of the prisoners.

As a big group of men – your correspondent included – waited in Block 5 at the Ela Prison at Beersheva for a bus to Ben Gurion Airport for deportation on Wednesday, a big group of security cadets was wheeled in to stare in wonderment – licking ice-creams as they did – even as a diabetic among the prisoners collapsed.

They were looking at the prisoners, but the prisoners were looking at them and their more senior colleagues who, among themselves, constantly displayed a brotherhood that seemed to cut across formal institutional structures.

Several Europeans were distressed by the clear distinction the Israelis made between their ”white” and ”brown” prisoners.

The Norwegian activist Randi Kjos, a woman of some refinement, was genuinely shocked by what she observed.

“They treated us with hatred – the old were made to kneel for long periods and women had to sit with their arms crossed. Some of the wounded were naked to the waist … many were in shock.

“Palestinians and Arabs were treated very differently to Europeans or Westerners. Palestinians who asked for anything were belted, pushed around or treated with contempt. People warned me of the hatred I would see – but still, I was shocked.”

The Norwegian observed that many of the women prisoners were denied a phone call on the grounds that a functioning telephone ”was broken”’ Others were furious on behalf of many Turkish women who were denied a call home because they could not satisfy their guards’ demand that they converse in English.

At Ela Prison it quickly became clear that the guards were under strict instructions not to inflict physical violence on the prisoners. In a system that has thrown up a steady stream of human rights reports on abuse, the Arab prisoners quickly realised that here was a rare occasion on which they were almost untouchable. In the circumstances, it was inevitable that the detainees would taunt the guards. “We’re all Palestinians,” one of the prisoners delighted in telling an officer, over and over; while another guard became visibly upset when one of the prisoners told him, when he already was upset about another matter: “You’re not really cut out for this job – you should have been a schoolteacher.”

Whenever a prison officer clenched his fist in such exchanges, a colleague would move in and take him away.

But amidst much taunting by prisoners, the refusal to lash out could last only for so long and at the airport a brawl erupted between deportees and their keepers, with several of the activists getting on the planes bruised and banged-up. And as they left a detention system in which some had been subjected to more than half-a-dozen body searches, many were still subject to a humiliating, painfully slow strip-search by smirking airport staff as they quit the country.

At the airport it became clear that the Israeli security forces could keep themselves on a leash only for so long.

As the Israelis continued to hold Yildirim, the head of the Turkish agency, until late into Wednesday night, a group of 15 detainees still being processed through the airport staged a protest when they observed Yildirim being put in a cell – “so the security guys just attacked us”, said Mohammed Bounoua, an Algerian who complained that he had been beaten three times during less than 72 hours in Israeli custody.

The ice-cream-licking cadets were seen late in the day at the airport – roughly dragging a deportee down a flight of stairs, after which they then celebrated with high-fives, back-slapping and smiling.

The 10-hour wait on the Ben Gurion tarmac and then the late-night flight to Istanbul were joyous.

Three Turkish aircraft were parked adjacent to Terminal 1 and, as the Israeli authorities processed passengers at snail’s pace, each arrival was welcomed onto the aircraft with clapping, cheering, crying. There was a festive, party mood as friends were reunited. There were pensive tears for those waiting for husbands, siblings, friends who had not been seen for days.

After several hours on the tarmac, the pilot announced that the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had insisted that none of the aircraft would leave until all the Turkish activists and the bodies of the dead had been loaded.

There were bursts of song. One in particular was a chant of praise for the Turkish leader and the Damascus-based head of Hamas, Khalid Mishal, the refrain to which was: “Peace and blessings be upon Muhammad.”

Sailing south towards Gaza last week, hopping between the boats in the flotilla, I wondered whether anyone in the Israeli establishment would have the smarts and influence to draft a response more substantive than the setting to sea of the Tel Aviv chardonnay set, which was back in the marina before sunset.

What if Israeli ships met the flotilla at the edge of the Gaza exclusion zone and escorted it to Gaza City, then stood back as the locals offloaded its 10,000 tonnes of emergency supplies? Israel could have announced an easing or even an abandonment of the Gaza blockade and instead found other ways to deal with its security concerns.

It would have stuck in Netanyahu’s craw for a few days but the boil of a failed policy would have been lanced, and there would be no need for further flotillas to cause bloodletting at sea. Instead, Israel is keeping the blockade and the Prime Minister and his ministers are not sure what sort of inquiry should investigate the flotilla disaster.

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 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.”

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online only Gaza Freedom Flotilla eyewitnesses speak out

by Tom Walker

Osama Qashoo told a packed meeting how he carried an injured man,

“By the time I got to the corner of the room, there was a hot material in my hand – I didn’t realise it was the man’s brain.” He hadn’t realised the man was dead.

Osama was one of the eyewitnesses to Israel’s massacre of nine activists taking aid to Gaza who spoke at a 200-strong meeting at London’s Conway Hall last night. He is a filmmaker with the Free Gaza Movement.

He saw how the IDF treated one injured activist.

“His knee was completely shattered. The soldier just took him and dropped him.”

The Israeli soldiers stopped injured people getting the medical help they needed, the witnesses said.

Laura, an activist from north London, said,

“The floor was covered in blood. No-one expected such a vicious attack.”

A trained first aider, she was trying to help people but was forced to stop.

“Three Israeli soldiers pointed their guns at me and said they’d shoot if I didn’t come.

“I asked them to take people to hospital. They wouldn’t.”

Jamal Elshayyal is an al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.

Hanin, the member of the Knesset on board, who speaks Hebrew, announced over the tannoy that there were critically injured people who needed help,” he said.

“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved.

“They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid.”

Jamal exposed Israel’s lies that the IDF had been “provoked” by people on board.

“I checked and filmed every centimetre and there was not one weapon on that ship,”

“I saw one of the Turkish passengers shot in the top of his head from a helicopter. There was not one soldier on the ship when he was killed.

“After I’d seen two killed, the main organiser took off his white top to use as a white flag. Live fire was still used after that.

“There was an announcement in English and Hebrew saying the ship had been surrendered. There was still live fire after that as well.”

Osama said, “Everyone was panicking, running in different directions. Something fell on my head – it was a soldier. He got up and started shooting.

“We managed to disarm him – it was an act of self defence.

“I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it. They took their camera and filmed their own pistol, saying they’d found a weapon – it was completely staged.”

One by one, the Israelis captured and cuffed the activists.

“I was forced to the ground and beaten,” said Osama. “I could see their laser spots on me.

“Three of the soldiers sat on me. Every soldier who’d come and go would kick me, or spit on me. They put a plastic bag on my head.

“They twisted our hands, twisted the fingers into each other. I’ve now got no feeling in four of my fingers.

“We had a one-year-old child on board, Akram. They were beating me in front of him and he was crying.”

During the long hours sitting on deck, the captives were denied food, water and toilet rights.

“One of the guys was asking to go to the toilet, and the soldier said, go on yourself, said Osama. “In the end, he did.”

Jamal said, “I was cuffed, thrown to the ground and kicked. My face was slammed against the wall.

“One of the Malaysian activists had his hands tied behind his back so tightly that they were turning all sorts of colours.

“He asked for his hands to be loosened. The third time he asked, an Israeli soldier came over and tightened them. And the scream that came out…” he trailed off.

Bilal Abdul Aziz was on one of the flotilla’s smaller ships. “For 18 hours I was gagged,” he said. “I’ve still got scars from where they tied us with cable ties.

“People were shot with stun guns and beaten with truncheons. Me and many others were tasered.

“We were all in the same boat,” he added, to laughter.

Alex Harrison of the Free Gaza Movement said, “Everyone was pushed to the floor, face down in the broken glass.

“Two of the women were hooded, Guantanamo-style.”

“We could hear the sound of live gunfire around us,” she added.

After a slow journey to the port of Ashdod, the activists were searched and thrown in prison.

“They asked me to lift my shirt up,” said Bilal, “and then all the soldiers standing near me ran away. I was wearing a money belt… I guess they thought it was something else.”

Jamal said, “I asked for a lawyer – I was refused. The British consulate – refused. A phone call – refused.

“That was one of the most difficult times. You don’t know what the world knows about you.

“Throughout my time there I did not see a British official.

“I still don’t have my passport – it’s in the custody of the Israeli government, just months after they used British passports for murder.

Ibrahim, an activist from Gloucester, told how he was interrogated by the Israeli secret services. “The guy started becoming abusive, banging the table,” he told the meeting.

“He said, ‘you see those scars on your hand? This is not the end.’

“Before I left, he said to me, ‘watch out for your life’.”

Alex of the Free Gaza Movement said, “One woman had seen her husband killed, but she was just pulled away from him and thrown into prison with the rest of us.

“Later she was shown a photo of him, then 36 hours dead, and told ‘identify him’.”

As they were deported, she said she saw injured people forced to march to the plane unassisted.

“They were covered in blood,” she said. “They had not even been given a change of clothes or allowed to shower.

“They’d been shot in the tops of their feet – and they weren’t even allowed crutches to get to the aircraft. If someone offered them an arm they were screamed at. They were made to hop.

“The British consul was standing there when I was being deported. I said to him, ‘this is illegal.’ He said, ‘I know, but they do what they do.’”

She added, however, that day to day life was far worse for the people of Palestine.

“What we went through was not even one percent of what the Palestinians go through every day,” she said. “That’s what this is about.

“There is not a natural disaster in Gaza. This is not about aid. This is about their human rights, freedoms and dignity.”

Source.

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.

Gaza convoy man returns to Island

Peter Venner AN Island man, caught up in the storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla by Israeli commandos, has spoken of his relief at returning home.
Peter Venner, 63, arrived back on the Island yesterday (Sunday), after being deported from Israel via Turkey.
He was on board the aid vessel Mavi Marmara when it was attacked in international waters by Israeli forces, killing nine people.
“I’m very happy to be back and almost completely unscathed,” said Mr Venner, of Ryde, who was bound with cable ties, held at gunpoint and locked up in an Israeli prison for two days before being flown out of the country.
“I was prepared for the fact there might be a confrontation, I thought we might be attacked or even torpedoed,” said Mr Venner.
“When they stormed the ship, I didn’t panic because the adrenaline kicked in. It was like going into shock.
“The whole thing has been a huge embarrassment for Israel.”

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk
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