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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 identify themselves.

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 Harper.

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 the ship.

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

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 weapons.

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 Ashdod.

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 second wave.

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 consultations.

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 raid.

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 2009.

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