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Israel Attacks Gaza Flotilla, Kills up to 16 so far…

May 31, 2010

Israeli forces attacked the Gaza Flotilla late last night in international waters, killing up to 16 activists and injuring more than 50.

The ships, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for the besieged Gaza Strip, left Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach the Gazan coast by Monday. There were around 600 pro-Palestinian activists on board—including a Nobel laureate, European legislators, and even a Holocaust survivor.

In the middle of the night, the lead ship of the flotilla—the Mavi Marmara, which was flying Turkish flags, was flanked by Israeli naval ships. The ships slowed down about 65 km off the coast of Gaza in order to avoid confrontation, and passengers were asked by organizers to put on life jackets and go below decks.

Afterwards, the Israeli troops descended on the ship from helicopters flying above.

From here, of course, there are two different versions of the story—the Israeli military spokesperson report, and the eye-witness testimonies of pro-Palestinian activists aboard. The Israeli spokesperson says that as soon as the soldiers stormed the ship, activists on board “attacked the soldiers with axes, clubs, and knives.”

In my year and a half living in the West Bank, there have been countless times where the Israeli military has killed innocent Palestinians and afterwards came out with the statement “They attacked the soldiers with axes!” or “They attacked the soldiers with pitchforks!” It’s almost a joke when we hear that excuse here now—so when I heard that that was the Israelis’ excuse for attacking peace activists, I almost had to laugh.

Ok, anyone who knows anything about Israeli soldiers knows enough not to attack them with something like that when the soldiers are carrying Uzis and M-16’s. And most of the time, when these Palestinians (usually teenagers and children who were working on their farmland or shepherding in the fields…) get killed, there are eye-witnesses who have a completely different story—which goes something like this: “The soldiers killed them in cold blood.”

Similarly, the passengers on board the Gaza Flotilla have said that the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition from the minute they descended on the ship—in addition to brutalizing and beating anyone who stood in their way.

Audrey Bomse, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement which organized the convoy, said this: “We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn’t get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance.”

Anyone who follows the news in the region knows how the Israeli military responds to nonviolent, symbolic resistance. By killing around a dozen nonviolent demonstrators in protests against the Wall in the West Bank (since they began 5 years ago), and injuring countless dozens of others (including me and many of my friends!).

Israel has heightened its security across the country, in an attempt to quell any protests against the attack.

President Abbas has declared a three-day national strike and mourning for those killed on board.

Sweden and Turkey have already summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Flotilla could have big implications. The lead ship that was attacked was a Turkish ship flying Turkish flags, and was attacked in international waters. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, and this should constitute an attack on a NATO member state, there might be some kind of response from the rest of the member countries against Israel.

Don’t hold your breath though, this isn’t the first time Israel has broken international laws, killed innocent people, or lied about how it happened—and it probably won’t be the last either.

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