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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.