Thursday, June 03, 2010

Israeli Navy Kill Unarmed Peace Activists!

Israeli naval vessel in the Mediterranean
US-Israel: Gaza Aid Convoy Attack Reveals the Real "Axis of Evil " Facing the World
By Finian Cunningham
Global Research, June 5, 2010
The last member of the international aid convoy, the Rachel Corrie MV, has not made it to its Gaza destination at the scheduled time mid-morning Saturday, according to local media reports.
The ship carrying 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip was hours earlier intercepted by Israeli naval forces some 50 kilometres off the coast in Mediterranean international waters. Israeli commandos have apparently blacked out satellite communications onboard the Rachel Corrie in a repeat of similar actions taken on the six other members of the Free Gaza Flotilla on 31 May. It is presumed that the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie is now in Israeli custody.
This second violation of international laws by the Israeli state, involving piracy, armed aggression and abduction of foreign nationals, coming only days after its savage attack on the earlier convoy led by the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmami MV during which at least nine civilians were shot dead and dozens injured, clearly shows that the Israeli state sees itself beyond any legal or moral control. It is a self-justifying autonomous military machine that will fabricate any pretext for its actions, no matter how depraved these actions are. The US government under Barack Obama fits in the same criminal category given its bankrolling of the Israeli state with $3 billion every year, the US refusal to sanction Israeli over its latest international aggression or its illegal and inhumane three-year blockade of Gaza, and given Washington’s own ongoing acts of international aggression and crimes against humanity in at least three other overseas territories: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The aftermath of Israel’s recent actions clearly demonstrate that the international community is now faced with a mortal threat from this US-Israeli axis – an axis of permanent state of war on the world:
Eyewitness accounts from aid workers, released after days of incarceration, flatly contradict official Israeli claims that their heavily armed forces acted in self-defence. Aid workers corroborate initial satellite images that show Israeli forces opening fire on the flotilla before and while boarding these ships.
Turkish autopsy reports show that nine of the dead were shot up to 30 times at point blank range.
“The Turkish forensic results also showed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan, 19, was shot five times in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back from a distance of less than 45 centimeters,” reports Press TV.
Yet such use of excessive lethal force against civilians continues to be justified by Israeli government leaders and tacitly by Washington.
Hours before the interception of the Rachel Corrie, Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We will stop the ship, and also any other ship that will try to harm Israeli sovereignty.”
Note the ludicrous assertion that an internationally verified humanitarian aid ship is “harming Israeli sovereignty”. Such a mindset is evidently beyond any rational dialogue or supplication.
The same warped mindset is also revealed by media reports that one of the Israeli commandos involved in the raid on the Mavi Marmara, identified only as “Staff Sergeant S”, is to be awarded a medal for valour for his single-handed killing of six civilians.
This multiple violation of international laws by Israel, perversely justified by Israeli leaders with the backing of the US, shows that the world indeed faces an urgent and virulent challenge to peace. This US-Israeli axis must be faced down by the international community and legally held to account. The problem is that the existing international framework under the United Nations is clearly not up to the task. The quarantine and disabling of the US-Israeli war machine will require a new international framework, perhaps headed up members of the growing Non-Aligned Movement, such as Brazil, Turkey and Malaysia. One thing is for sure from the massive outpouring of public anger and indignation across the world, including the US and Europe, such an initiative would have critically important popular support.
Middle East On The Brink
By Lou Scatigna
June 2nd, 2010
IDF: Global Jihad links on flotilla
Dozens of passengers who were aboard the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship are suspected of having connections with global jihad-affiliated terrorist organizations, defense officials said on Tuesday, amid growing concerns that Turkish warships would accompany a future flotilla to the Gaza Strip.
According to the defense officials, the IDF has identified about 50 passengers on the ship who could have terrorist connections with global jihad-affiliated groups.
During its searches of the Mavi Marmara on Tuesday, the military also discovered a cache of bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles, as well as gas masks. On Monday morning, at least nine foreign activists were killed during the navy’s takeover of the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The group of over 50 passengers with possible terror connections have refused to identify themselves and were not carrying passports. Many of them were carrying envelopes packed with thousands of dollars in cash.
The military is working to identify the passengers and is looking into the possibility that some of them have been involved in terror attacks. Some of them are apparently known Islamic extremists.
“This is the group that was behind the violent lynch against the naval commandos,” a defense official said. “They came on board the ship prepared and after they had trained for the expected navy takeover.”
Late Tuesday, there were reports that Issam al-Budur, Jordan’s consul in Israel, reached an agreement with Israel according to which another group of 124 detained flotilla activists would be taken by bus to Jordan and sent from there to their home countries. The detainees are Jordanian, Mauritanian, Moroccan, Kuwaiti, Pakistani, Indonesian and Syrian.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel not to test Ankara’s patience.
“Turkey’s hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable,” he said. “Israel in no way can legitimize this murder, it cannot wash its hand of this blood.”
This comment, officials said, could signify a change in Turkish military posture in the event that another flotilla is dispatched to the Gaza Strip. One official said that the chances that Turkey would send navy ships were slim – due to its membership in NATO – but that the issue was of great concern.
“This is a definite possibility that we need to prepare for,” a senior defense official said.
The flotilla that arrived late on Sunday night comprised six ships, and another two ships, including the Rachel Corrie, are expected to attempt to enter Israeli waters in the coming days.
Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the flotilla, said that two vessels, one a cargo ship and another carrying about three dozen passengers, would arrive in the region late this week or early next week.
“This initiative is not going to stop,” she said from the group’s base in Cyprus. “We think eventually Israel will get some kind of common sense. They’re going to have to stop the blockade of Gaza, and one of the ways to do this is for us to continue to send the boats.”
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen described the Rachel Corrie as Irish-owned and said it should be allowed to finish its mission, according to Reuters. The ship was carrying 15 activists, including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate.
“The government has formally requested the Israeli government to allow the Irish-owned ship… to be allowed to complete its journey unimpeded and discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza,” Cowen told members of parliament in Dublin.
Navy sources said that the ships sailing toward Gaza would be intercepted the same way the flotilla was stopped on Monday morning, although it had yet to be decided if the operation would be carried out by Shayetet 13, the navy’s commando unit.
“We are tracking the ships and are under orders to stop them,” a top navy officer said.
According to the sources, in a future operation, the navy would use more force.
“We boarded the ship [the Mavi Marmara] and were attacked as if it were a war,” one officer said. “That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it were a war.”
Orthodox Jews demonstrate against Israel's attacks on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip during a rally in Ottawa, Ontario, on May 31.
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/AP
Gaza flotilla raid pushes unknown Knesset member into spotlight
Hanin Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was seized Monday by Israeli commandos, has stepped up as a leading domestic critic of her government's Gaza flotilla raid. Meanwhile, senior statesman Ehud Barak faces calls for his resignation.
By Joshua Mitnick, Correspondent / June 2, 2010
Tel Aviv
Reverberations within Israel from Monday's deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla are thrusting an unknown Arab-Israeli parliamentarian into the spotlight while Defense Minister Ehud Barak faces intense criticism over the botched operation that left at least nine dead.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zoabi, right, who was on board the Gaza-bound flotilla when it was raided by Israeli forces Monday, attempts to speak at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, as Anastassia Michaeli, of the ultra-nationalistic Yisrael Beteinu party, center, is escorted off of the podium, in Jerusalem, Wednesday.
David Vaaknin/AP
As Mr. Barak withstands a barrage of calls for his resignation, freshman parliament member Hanin Zoabi has emerged as a leading domestic critic of her government, calling their military operation "criminal."
"She is becoming a star even though she has a reputation for being quiet,'' says Saed Adawi, an editor at the Israeli Arab Kul el Arab online news site. "She displayed bravery.''
Ms. Zoabi was aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the so-called Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break Israel's three-year blockade on the Gaza Strip and bring in 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. She was detained, along with more than 600 others, when Israeli naval forces rerouted all six ships to Ashdod port.
Since the incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has launched an intense media campaign, posting videos on its website and YouTube that portray its soldiers as victims of pre-meditated violence from activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.
Zoabi: 'Are you sure of the Israeli story?'
Zoabi was released from police custody Tuesday because of her parliamentary immunity, and today addressed Israeli parliament in a fiery speech challenging Israel's narrative that clashes were started by club-wielding activists.
"Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation," she told the Knesset. "Why does the government of Israel oppose an investigation? Are you sure of the Israeli story?"
Her address to the Israeli Knesset was repeatedly interrupted by Jewish lawmakers calling her a traitor and shouting, "Go to Gaza, traitor!"
In a televised address Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Israel's critics of "hypocrisy."
But Zoab has not tempered her rhetoric. During a press conference Tuesday, according to Ynet news, she said: "It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail, but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future."
Zoabi, 41, has been in the Knesset for just over a year as part of the Arab nationalist Balad party. She is the latest Arab member of the parliament to be accused of siding with Israel's enemies, underlining the heat on the country's one-fifth minority.
Ehud Barak under fire
While Zoabi emerges as a leader among Israeli Arabs, the flotilla incident has damaged the image of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is seen as the architect of the botched operation. A public opinion poll published Wednesday by the daily Maariv newspaper showed Mr. Barak as the focus of the blame.
"People were satisfied with him as a defense minister. This is the first time that he has faced real criticism,'' says Noam Shezeif, an Israeli journalist writes the Promised Land political blog. "In the long run, it causes real damage, because it hits him in his strong point.''
On Tuesday he faced a call from a party colleague to resign – which would almost certainly destabilize Netanyahu. Barak has been an important envoy for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the US administration on peace talks, and his Labor Party is somewhat of a political counterweight and linchpin to Netanyahu's otherwise right wing coalition.
Analysts doubt he will resign, however, because it would amount to a mea culpa for Israel. But in the coming months, after the shock of international criticism wears off, analysts say Israelis are likely to be less forgiving of the Barak-Netanyahu duo's mishandled foreign policy.
"Mainstream Israelis are not satisfied with the justifications that there's nothing we can do about it,'' says Akiva Eldar, a political commentator from the liberal Haaretz newspaper. Such a justification is especially hard when numerous governments and the UN Security Council have condemned the violence and called for an independent inquiry.
"You can't convince [Israelis] that the Italians, Germans, and the new conservative British government, and that everyone is wrong, and they are the only one that sees the reality right."
Police stand next to protesters during an anti-Israeli protest in front of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, on May 31.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh /AP
Terror on Aid Ship: "Plan Was to Kill Activists and Deter Future Convoys"
By Jonathan Cook
URL of this article:
Global Research, June 2, 2010
Nazareth --An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys.
Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.
Terrified passengers had been forced off the deck when water was sprayed at them. She said she was not aware of any provocation or resistance by the passengers, who were all unarmed.
She added that within minutes of the raid beginning, three bodies had been brought to the main room on the upper deck in which she and most other passengers were confined. Two had gunshot wounds to the head, in what she suggested had been executions.
Two other passengers slowly bled to death in the room after Israeli soldiers ignored messages in Hebrew she had held up at the window calling for medical help to save them. She said she saw seven other passengers seriously wounded.
“Israel had days to plan this military operation,” she told a press conference in Nazareth. “They wanted many deaths to terrorise us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza.”
Released early yesterday by police, apparently because of her parliamentary immunity, she said she was speaking out while most of the hundreds of other peace activists were either being held by Israel for deportation or were under arrest.
Three other leaders of Israel’s large Palestinian Arab minority, including Sheikh Raed Salah, a spiritual leader, were arrested as their ships docked in the southern port of Ashdod. Lawyers said that under Israeli law they could be held and questioned for up to 30 days without being charged.
Contradicting Israeli claims, Ms Zoubi said a search by the soldiers after they took control of the Marmara discovered no arms or other weapons.
It was vital, she added, that the world demand an independent UN inquiry to find out what had happened on the ship rather than allow Israel to carry out a “whitewash” with its own military investigation.
Ms Zoubi spoke as Palestinians inside both Israel and the occupied territories observed a general strike called by their leaders. A statement from the High Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, described the raid on the flotilla as “state-sponsored terrorism”.
Demonstrations and marches in most of the main Palestinian towns and villages in Israel passed off quietly. Local analysts described the mood as angry but subdued, not least because of the openly hostile climate that has developed towards Palestinian citizens since crackdowns on their protests during the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago.
However, police were reported to have been put on high alert, with thousands of extra officers drafted into the north, where most Palestinian citizens live.
On Monday, clashes between protesters and police broke out close to the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the northern town of Umm al Fahm after false rumours circulated that Sheikh Salah, the leader of Israel’s main Islamic Movement, had been killed in the Israeli naval operation.
Even before the attack on the flotilla, the country’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, had been braced for a backlash from the government and Jewish public for its leaders’ participation in the flotilla. As the ships set sail, Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, had asked whether Ms Zoubi was an “MP in the service of Hamas”.
But faced with the severe diplomatic fall-out from Israel’s killing of peace activists, Israel’s Palestinian leaders warned that they were likely to come under even fiercer criticism in coming days.
Yesterday right-wing parties launched their first attacks on Ms Zoubi, demanding the revocation of her immunity and her expulsion from the parliament. Danny Danon, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for her to be “tried for treason”.
In her statement on the attack, Ms Zoubi said that at 4am on Monday she had seen at least 14 Israeli boats surround their ship 130km out at sea, in international waters.
She said the passengers had been gripped with fear at the noise and confusion as the commandos abseiled on to the deck. “I did not believe we were going to survive more than five minutes,” she said.
Taleb al Sana, another Arab MP, supported Ms Zoubi’s contention that Israeli claims that the commandos shot only at the passengers’ legs were false. “I have visited the wounded in hospital and they all have shot wounds to the head and body,” he said.
Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority, said nine lawyers had been given limited access yesterday afternoon to the hundreds of activists detained in the southern city of Beersheva and were trying to take testimonies “in very difficult circumstances”.
Its lawyers and human rights groups were also trying to track down who had been injured and where they being treated.
“Our view is that Israel is intentionally trying to obstruct this work and is enforcing an information blackout,” said Gaby Rubin, a spokeswoman for Adalah.
Pro-Palestinian supporters march past the Houses of Parliament during a protest against Israel in central London on May 31.
Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla sparks international outrage
Israeli navy stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a flotilla of vessels crewed by pro-Palestinian activists
Robert Booth, Monday 31 May 2010
They came by sea and air shattering the peace of a Mediterrean night. Shortly after 4.30am in international waters, the elite Flotilla 13 unit of the Israeli navy stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of flotilla of vessels crewed by an alliance of pro-Palestinian activists who combined to deliver 10,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.
In a blitz of military strength, masked commandos rapelled on to the Turkish ship’s deck from a hovering helicopter and boarded from the side by fast attack launch. They were armed with guns, stun grenades and tear gas. Assault craft drenched their target in dazzling light and used booming tannoys to warn the ship’s passengers to halt their mission or face Israel taking “all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade”.
The activists from as many as 50 different countries stood little chance in the face of such a show of strength, but they did not go down without a fight as became vividly clear yesterday from detailed television pictures. If Israel had been hoping to enjoy the cover of darkness by attacking at night, they did not reckon on the presence of a network of on board video cameras recording their opening moves.
Turkish television footage showed how one by one as the commandos descended by ropes to the deck they were ambushed by waiting passengers armed with what appeared to be metal bars, sticks and in one case, a table. The reception for two commandos descending from a helicopter was brutal – the first was battered to the ground and heavily beaten and the second, landing seconds later, was assaulted by a man with a bar and forced to retreat into a doorway before fighting back out.
Whether these were the first blows struck in an incident that ended with the deaths of at least 16 people and the injury of at least 50, is disputed. Those on board, including a reporter for Al Jazeera said the Israelis fired on the boat before boarding. Israel said it opened fire after its commandos were attacked by activists weilding knives, clubs and fire from pistols wrested from its soldiers. It was impossible yesterday to verify either account.
What is certainly true is that shortly after the assault, all communications with the flotilla were blocked. Mobile phones, satellite phones and internet access all went down, making it all but impossible to glean any account from the passengers about what happened beyond the few minutes that were captured on film. Israel’s version of events became the only one available in any detail.
The Guardian has attempted to piece together the story on events from electronic communications from the flotilla, video footage taken on board, interviews with the flotilla organisers, reports from journalists on board the Mavi Marmara, reports from journalists embedded with the Israeli military and statements from the Israelis.
During Sunday on the journey from Cyprus towards Gaza, the trip had been progressing well with spirits high among the pro-Palestinian activists, according to messages received from the flotilla at the Cyprus base of Free Gaza, one of the campaign groups behind the mission.
“They were excited because they knew they were on their way,” said Greta Berlin, a Free Gaza activist in Cyprus who was in frequent contact. “We would get little messages saying ‘we are on a Mediterranean cruise, it is really quite lovely’. There was no feeling until around midnight that anyone was in any danger.”
Little did they know that three hours earlier than that, at around 9pm, three Israeli naval craft had left the northern Israeli port of Haifa to intercept them. The plan was for Israel’s elite Flotilla 13 unit to disembark on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and from there rush to the vessel’s bridge and order the Marmara’s captain to stop, said Israeli journalist, Ron Ben Yishai, who was embedded with the Israeli military.
By around 11pm Israel’s taskforce was alongside the flotilla of six vessels and one of the navy ships broadcast a warning to the flotilla not to approach Gaza.
“If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade,” the message said, according to a recording later broadcast on Israeli radio.
Then around midnight the flotilla co-ordinators appeared to become worried and Lubna Masarwa, a Palestinian Israeli on board the Marmarra issued a series of urgent messages via Twitter.
“We didn’t expect them now,” she said. “We thought they will arrive at the morning, please stay in touch with the other boats . . . People here put there life jackets [sic], everybody preparing here. We are in international waters . . . Three boats are coming, not two, Three Israeli boats, we are 78 mile from Israel . . . Two Israeli ships coming toward us . . . they contact the ship asked who we are and disappeared, getting close to the ship we can see them.”
The Free Gaza campaign was worried enough to issue “a call to the world from the people on the boats”. “This flotilla is bringing supplies the people of Gaza and are being met by military force,” it said.
Over the next few hours as the Israeli ships circled, the flotilla issued a series of brief messages through their spot locator, a telecommunications device which charted their progress on a web site.
“This is a HELP message,” it said at 12.30am. “We have been contacted by the Israelis but are still fine, don’t worry.”
Shortly afterwards another states: “Challenger 2 [one of the boats] contacted by Israeli Defence Force radio A/O approached by IDF ships”, and another: “Going ahead”. Three more “OK” signals between 1.30am and 2.30am were then replaced at 4.30am by a red exclamation mark stating: “Last position before IDF attack. 04:30 GMT, Latitude:32.64113, Longitude:33.56727″ – around 70 miles from the coast of northern Israel and 90 miles from Gaza.
The assault had been underway for at least 30 minutes, according to Dr Arafat Madi, one of the European organisers of the convoy who spoke to the activists by satellite phone shortly afterwards.
“The Israelis took the phones from us as we were talking,” he said. “We heard from them that the Israeli army attacked all the ships at once with hundreds of soldiers.”
He said the Greek captain of one of the smaller vessels, the 8000, had been shot and two others were injured. But he had no information about injuries on the other vessels and said they were struggling to get any information from the Israelis to give to worried families of the activists.
Video footage of the assault on the Marmara showed at least half a dozen armed and masked commados gathering themselves on the bow deck of the ship, apparently having been helicoptered on.
During the assault, which began in earnest 40 miles from the coast, several journalists continued to broadcast from the aft deck, sharing a microphone in a relay as they broadcast to the world.
Reporting for Press TV, an Iranian state run channel, one said: “we are being hit by tear gas, stun grenades. We have navy ships on every side and helicopters ahead. We are being attacked on every side.”
A group of activists on the ship were shown on video mustering at the top of a flight of stairs armed with makeshift weapons. The ship’s captain could be heard speaking over the tannoy urging them to give up: “please, all the brothers, go back to your cabin and sit on your seats. Stop your resistence, they are using live ammunition. We can’t protect ourselves.”
Over the noise of gunfire, Jamal Elshayyal, reporting for Al Jazeera, told how two passengers had been killed and that a white flag of surrender was raised on board “after Israeli commandos descended upon the ship from a helicopter as well as surrounding it on all sides [in boats].”
He continued: “despite the white flag being raised, the Israeli army is still shooting, still firing live munitions.”
Shortly afterwards the broadcasts stopped and all internet and satellite phone connections were lost.
The Israeli military had been surprised by the resistence they met, according to an account by Ron Ben Yishai, an Israeli journalist with the forces. He said the commandos were carrying paintball rifles. He said they were equipped with handgunds but were only authorised to use them in life-threatening situations.
“The navy commandoes were prepared to mostly encounter political activists seeking to hold a protest, rather than trained street fighters,” he wrote on the Ynet News website. “The rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandos who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter.”
He claimed activists stole the handgun from one commando and threw him 30 feet over a rail causing serious head injuries. Only after this were the commandos authorised to use live ammunition and then shot at the activists legs, he said. He added that some passengers stood at the back and pounded the soldiers’ hands as they attempted to climb on board.
Footage on Turkish television showed the impact of the battle. A woman carried a bloodstained stretcher, men were shown bleeding from wounds people in rubber gloves moved about tending the injured. People were stretched out on the floor and it was not clear if they were alive or dead.
A peace activist holds a 'Free Palestinians' sign during a rally in front of the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo, on June 1. About 50 activists protested against Israel over its deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Koji Sasahara/AP
Also See:
Israel, Israel, God is Calling!
20 June 2009