Newsletter : 10fx0601.txt
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Lieberman: Flotilla Organizers Wanted Blood to be Shed
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke out Monday evening regarding Israel's
interception of boats trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza, "The aim of the terror
activists was the spilling of blood and not any humanitarian aid in Gaza.
"Everything proves that it was a group of terrorists who want to promote terror and
cooperate with terror." Lieberman rejected claims about Israel acting in international
waters, explaining, "It's every state's right to check ships entering its territory.
Action in international waters was in accordance with all accepted international law."
Gaza Flotilla Docks in Ashdod After Deadly Raid
By Israel Faxx News Services
The Turkish-flagged ship carrying international activists bringing humanitarian aid to
Gaza docked at the Ashdod port on Monday evening, nearly 16 hours after it was stormed by
Israel Navy commandos in what turned into a deadly raid.
The Mavi Marmara was the last of the six-ship flotilla to be towed into the port, and
its 600 passengers were kept on board while Israel Police sappers conducted a thorough
examination of the vessel.
Nine activists aboard the ship were killed and several more wounded in the clashes that
erupted with Israel Navy troops at 4 a.m. on Monday. Eight of the Israeli soldiers were
wounded, two of them seriously.
The other ships were towed to port over the course of the afternoon, with dozens of the
activists detained for refusing to sign Israel's deportation orders. Only some 25 of the
activists agreed to the order. Israel Prisons Services incarcerated at least 32 of the
activists who were aboard the Gaza aid flotilla, at least 16 of them for refusing to
At least two of the activists who were wounded on the ship were detained after refusing
treatment at the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. Some 34 of the foreigners were treated
hospitals across Israel for their wounds.
Israel has said it would deport the roughly 700 activists in the flotilla. But those
who refuse to cooperate would be jailed.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that he regretted the loss of life
sustained by the international activists but said the Israeli troops who opened fire were
justified for defending themselves.
Netanyahu, who earlier in the day canceled his planned visit to Washington where he was
to meet with President Barack Obama, said that Israel was prepared to bring all
humanitarian aid carried on the ship to civilians in Gaza. "Our policy was and will
continue to be that Israel would let humanitarian aid, any kind of goods that are meant
for peace, to the civilian population of Gaza," he said.
"We have no problems with the people of Gaza. We do have a conflict with the terrorist
regime of Hamas, supported by Iran. We want to maintain a situation where we prevent
weapons and war materials from coming into Gaza, and allowing humanitarian aid to go to
the population of Gaza."
Netanyahu was in Ottawa when the incident took place early Monday, and announced that
he would return to Israel following his meeting with Canadian President Stephen
Netanyahu spoke by telephone with Obama prior to his departure to explain why he had
decided to cancel their meeting, The two planned to coordinate another date for their
talks, and Netanyahu promised to keep the U.S. president updated as developments unfolded
with regard to the Gaza flotilla incident.
Obama voiced deep regret over the deadly raids, but expressed the importance of
"learning all the facts and circumstances" surrounding the incident involving aid ships
seeking access to the blockaded Gaza Strip. He said he understood the prime minister's
decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today's events, the statement said.
Israeli officials over the course of Monday defended the Navy's decision to open fire
on the activists during the interception of the boat. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said
that the organizers of the Gaza aid flotilla were to blame for the violent events aboard
In a press conference hours after the incident, Barak said that Israel was prepared to
accept the consequences of its actions and would continue to protect its autonomy. Barak
voiced regret for the deaths, but called the flotilla a political provocation and said the
sponsors of the flotilla were violent supporters of a terror organization.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, meanwhile, said the soldiers were
forced by violent activists to respond with live fire.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said earlier Monday that the organizers of the
Gaza aid flotilla have connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas
and Al-Qaida, and called the aid convoy a violent and provocative attempt to break the
blockade on Gaza. Ayalon, speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry, said
that Israel found weapons aboard the Gaza flotilla, which were used against IDF troops.
The deputy foreign minister said that the Gaza flotilla did not heed Israel's calls to
halt its movement toward Gaza on Monday morning, and stressed that no sovereign country
would have allowed such a provocation to take place. "We couldn't allow the opening of a
corridor of smuggling arms and terrorists," said Ayalon.
The deputy foreign minister told reporters that Israel does not want to fight with any
country, but that the incident on the Gaza flotilla is not yet over.
Video of the activists attacking IDF personnel can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/3anw8eu
The footage shows the brutal attack on troops on board Gaza-bound vessel. One soldier
says passengers fired at forces and beat them severely using metal bats, knives. `We
landed barehanded, and they lynched us,' he said.
The video also shows one soldier being grabbed by some of the activists and being
pushed down to the lower deck, sustaining serious wounds. Meanwhile, passengers on the
ship kept on beating up the soldiers who landed on the vessel.
Following the takeover of the ship, soldiers displayed for the cameras the knives and
other weapons used by the Gaza-bound activists in their attack.
One of the soldiers who took part in the raid and broke his hand in the clash recounted
the moments of horror when he and his comrades were assaulted by about 30 activists on
board. "After every person came down (from the helicopter,) three or four guys grabbed a
hold of him and simply beat him senseless. They lynched us. They were equipped with metal
bats, knives, slingshots, and glass bottles. At some point we faced live fire by two
guys," he said.
"I was among the last to come down, and I saw the guys spread all over, each in another
corner, with three or four people around each. I saw a soldier on the ground with two
people beating the hell out of him. I pushed them off of him, and they moved on to me and
started to beat me up with the poles. This is how I broke my hand apparently," he said.
"At the time I was not holding a weapon, just like everyone who came down from the rope
barehanded and with our paintball guns on our backs.
"They came at me and assaulted me. I took them down to the ground. I took a few steps
back and pulled out my paintball gun. They charged me while I fired at their legs," he
said. "One of the bats shattered the weapon, so I moved on to the handgun, so that I have
something to hold. At that point my arm wasn't functional.
"I saw two of my guys lying on the floor. We were being fired at, with live ammunition,
from the corridor. It was bullets. I spotted a muzzle, and one of us fired at the guy. We
came in after that and he wasn't there. There were about 30 people there," the soldier
summed up. "They simply came for war. We came to talk to them, convince them to come down,
yet with every person who came down, they simply charged."
Despite the video footage, Israel had been condemned worldwide over the raid. The
events at sea also stirred great anger among Arab Israelis, who held rallies and waved PLO
flags across the nation. Two police officers sustained light wounds in Umm al-Fahm, in
northern Israel, after being stoned by locals.
The IDF confirmed that at least seven navy commandos had been wounded, two of them
seriously, in a fight which apparently broke out after activists tried to seize their
The commandos, who intercepted the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara after it ignored orders
to turn back from its course to Gaza, said they had encountered violent resistance from
activists armed with sticks and knives. According to the commandos, the activists threw
one of the soldiers from the upper deck to the lower after they boarded. The organizers of
the flotilla said the troops opened fire first.
An Israeli military spokesman said some of the commandos were equipped with paintball
guns but the non-lethal weapons were not enough against activists who charged in with
batons. "They had pistols with live ammunition as back-up, to defend themselves," he said.
The IDF said it had confiscated two pistols from the boat.
A Reuters cameraman on the Israel Navy ship Kidon, sailing close to the convoy, said
IDF commanders monitoring the operation were surprised by the strong resistance put up by
the pro-Palestinian activists.
One of the commandos said some of the soldiers were stripped of their helmets and
equipment and several were tossed from the top deck to a lower deck, forcing them to jump
into the sea to escape.
"They jumped me, hit me with clubs and bottles and stole my rifle," one of the
commandos said. "I pulled out my pistol and had no choice but to shoot."
A left-wing activist on board the Gaza flotilla holding a knife
The soldiers said they were forced to open fire after the activists struck one of their
comrades in the head and trampled on him. A senior IDF field commander ordered the
soldiers then to respond with fire, a decision which the commandos said received full
backing the military echelon.
The IDF said its rules of engagement allowed troops to open fire in what it called a
"life-threatening situation. Navy fighters took control of six ships that tried to violate
the naval blockade [of the Gaza Strip]," said a statement from the IDF. "During the
takeover, the soldiers encountered serious physical violence by the protesters, who
attacked them with live fire."
The Israel Navy had been operating under the assumption that the activists manning the
boats would not heed their calls to turn around, and Israeli troops had been prepared to
board the ships to steer them away from the Gaza shores toward the Israeli port city of
Huwaida Arraf, one of the flotilla organizers, said the convoy began the journey from
international waters off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday afternoon, after two days of
delays. According to organizers, the flotilla had been expected to reach Gaza, about 400
kilometers away, on Monday afternoon, and two more ships had been expected to follow in a
The European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, speaking to reporters in
Warsaw, Poland, said the EU is deeply concerned about Israel's storming of ships off of
Gaza and she called on Israel to carry out an inquiry, United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon said he was shocked by the violence against the pro-Palestinian aid mission,
and demanded that Israel conduct a full investigation. The U.N. Security Council has
called an emergency meeting to discuss the incident.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa denounced the raid, labeling it a "crime" and calling for
an emergency meeting of the 22-member group. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a
longtime critic of Israel, described the operation as "inhuman."
The reported killing has provoked public and diplomatic anger from Turkey, which has
recalled its ambassador to Israel. Hundreds more are holding protests outside Israel's
Istanbul consulate and the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara. Many of the
protesters are angry with Israel over the attack. This man's view is typical. "What
Israel did was murder and terrorism." Several protesters tried to scale the high fences
protecting the Israeli consulate.
A Turkish charity was one of the organizers of the aid delivery to Gaza, and the worst
clashes and most of the deaths are reported to have occurred on a Turkish ship. Turkey's
Islamic-rooted government has condemned Israel and recalled its ambassador for
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the raid an act of "state terrorism."
Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Israel and canceled three planned military
exercises with Israel to protest the incident.
The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli naval
The Counterterrorism Bureau issued a statement Monday warning Israelis against travel
to Turkey. The warning came as Arab media reported riots in the streets of Istanbul in
response to the maritime clash. Israeli citizens who are already in Turkey were advised by
the organization to remain near their place of residence, and to avoid city centers.
Jews living in Turkey told Israeli media that they sense real fear in the local Jewish
community, more than during the riots that followed Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in early
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