The Flotilla massacre and its aftermath – some immediate responses
See earlier updates here
High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton deeply regrets the loss of life as a result of the Israeli military operation against the Flotilla sailing to Gaza. Catherine Ashton extends her sympathies to the family and friends of those killed and wounded in this event.
The EU strongly condemns any acts of violence and deplores any excessive use of force. In this regard, on behalf of the EU, the High Representative is requesting a full immediate enquiry by the Israeli authorities.
The continued policy of closure of Gaza is unacceptable and politically counterproductive and the EU calls for the swift and full implementation of UNSC Resolution 1860.
The EU reiterates call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings in Gaza for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.
31 May 2010
International Investigation must be Launched into Israeli Navy’s Attack on the Civilian Passengers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Resulting in Killings and Injuries
Adalah: The Israeli military attack amounts to a war crime under international humanitarian law as it targeted civilians and civilian targets, and involved the use of disproportionate force.
(Haifa, Israel) According to media reports from eyewitness correspondents, at 4 am today, Monday, 31 May 2010, Israeli naval commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto one of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships en route to Gaza. Israeli navy troops used live ammunition against the unarmed civilian passengers during the operation, which resulted in the killing of at least 15 civilians and the injury of dozens of others. According to eyewitnesses, the firing continued after the ship raised a white flag. The attack took place in international waters approximately 70km off the coast of Gaza.
Last night, 30 May, Adalah issued an urgent letter to the Military Advocate General (MAG) seeking assurances that there would be no attack on the ships’ civilian passengers and that their telecommunications would not be scrambled. In its response, received by Adalah last night at 21:23 hours, the International Office of the MAG stated that the Israeli army would not reveal the operational military methods it would use to prevent the ships from entering Gaza. However, the MAG stated that it took the lives of civilians seriously and would take measures to protect their safety.
The Freedom Flotilla consists of six civilian ships carrying around 700 human rights activists and journalists from 40 countries, and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies. The purpose of the Freedom Flotilla was to protest against the illegal Israeli military blockade of the Gaza Strip, in place since 2007, by means of non-violent direct action. The blockade has resulted in a man-made humanitarian crisis.
The Israeli military attack amounts to a war crime under international humanitarian law as it targeted civilians and civilian targets, and involved the use of disproportionate force. The Israeli military has censored information concerning the events, including the names of those killed and injured. It also disconnected the ships from communications for various periods of time, thereby preventing the ships’ passengers from contacting their families.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, issued a joint statement today emphasizing, “We are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation.” A statement from the Office of the EU High Representative asserted, “On behalf of the EU, [Catherine Ashton] demands a full enquiry about the circumstances in which this happened.”
Adalah urges that an independent, international investigation be immediately opened into the Israeli naval attack on the civilian passengers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which resulted in dozens of killings and injuries.
International Advocacy Director
Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
94 Yaffa Street
PO Box 8921, Haifa 31090, Israel
Tel: +972(0)4-950-1610 Ext. 106
Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ Statement on Killings on the High Seas
We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid. We ask all people of peace to dedicate at least fifteen minutes today (Memorial day in the US) to silent memorial for those peace activists who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend), and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence). We invite all peace-loving people to attend a public memorial for those who died in this assault in Lafayette Park opposite the White House on Sunday, June 13, at 11 a.m-2 p.m., sponsored by Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and many other groups, and which will include a larger consideration of U.S. policies. Memorial prayers and prayers for healing will be said at 1 p.m.
We call upon Israel to conduct an objective, credible investigation to determine all the levels of responsibility for this criminal act, and to punish those from the top of the government down through the IDF who were responsible. If the past is any guide to the present moment, the Israel hasbara (public relations ‘explanation” operation) will now be working full time to put the blame on the people who sought to bring aid to Gaza, claiming that they were the violent ones and maybe even claiming that they were bringing military equipment or something of the sort.. Yet there was no need for any of this to have happened. Israel could have waited for the boats to arrive at shore and then sent military to search what was being brought to Gaza to ensure that it was in fact humanitarian aid. Moreover, as the Israeii peace movement Gush Shalom pointed out today, the core of the issue remains israel’s attempt to starve and punish the entire population of Gaza for the activities of Hamas.
We call upon the international community to stop the blockade and, if necessary, to introduce an international force into Israel/Palestine to protect each side from the other, and then to implement the creation of a two state solution, freeing both sides from the violence of the other, and giving to each side the security and self-determination to which both sides are entitled. We call upon President Obam to use this moment to take decisive steps to create the Palesitnian state while providing Israel with all necessary security, and providing the Palestinian people with protection from those in Israel who have used violence to prevent Palestinian national self-determination. We contnue to abhor and denounce those in Israel and those in Palestine and Gaza who resort to violence to achieve their ends, including Hamas and including Israeli settlers. We acknowledge that the Israeli treatment of Gaza cannot be understood separate from the violent attacks on Israeli civilians from the shelling of Israeli cities from Gaza, nor that shelling understood apart from the blockade of Gaza by Israel, nor that violence from Gaza apart from the violence of the Occupation, nor the Occupation separate from previous acts of violence by Palestinians, nor that previous violence separate from the larger context of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Israel during the founding of the State, nor that explusion separate from the hostility of Palestinians to the creation of the State, and the story goes on and on. It’s time to stop with the blame game and simply put an end to the struggle on both sides.
We continue to support the State of Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and for Palestine to exist as a homeland for the Palestinian people. The violence must stop. The peace process is going nowhere. The time for decisive action to impose a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict arrived decades ago, and must be grabbed now. What level of barbarity needs to happen for the U.S. and the international community to act decisively? How many more deaths?
We mourn the lives lost, the many who have been wounded, including both those on the humanitarian aid mission and Israelis sent by a crazed and irresponsible government into actions that put their lives in danger. Israel’s security was never threatened by this flotilla of humanitarian aid, and it was only macho political motivations that led Israeli leaders to order this insane assault. Israel deserves better than Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and the world has to recognize that this current Israeli government will never bring peace or stability to the Middle East. While we continue to deplore Hamas and all that it has introduced into the equation, complicating attempts to make peace and doing what it could to stir hatred, we believe that the world and the Israeli people and the Palestinian people deserve peace and justice, and that it is our human obligation to bring that to the peoples of the Middle East. A first step is to end the blockade of Gaza.We call upon all who protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to maintain a strict non-violent discipline, and to affirm the humanity of all sides in this conflict even as we insist on bold and compelling action to stop the conflict.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org
Statement by Richard Falk, The UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories
From: Richard Falk [email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 10:46 AM
Subject: Fw: NEWS RELEASE – Gaza aid convoy killings: “Those responsible must be held criminally accountable” – UN expert
31 May 2010
Gaza aid convoy killings: “Those responsible must be held criminally
accountable” – UN expert
GENEVA – The UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian
Territories, Richard Falk, urged Monday the international community to
bring to justice those responsible for the killing of some 16 unarmed
peace activist, when Israeli armed commandos stormed a convoy of ships
carrying aid to Gaza.
“Israel is guilty of shocking behavior by using deadly weapons against
unarmed civilians on ships that were situated in the high seas where
freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas,” Mr. Falk
said. “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless
and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders,
be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts.”
There are confirmed reports of lethal interference by Israeli military
units on the high seas with the Freedom Flotilla of six ships carrying
some 10,000 tons of medicine, food, and building materials to the civilian
population of Gaza. Preliminary reports suggest as many as 16 unarmed
activists were killed, and dozens more wounded.
“This peaceful humanitarian initiative by citizens from 50 countries is an
urgent response to the continuation of an unlawful blockade that has been
maintained for almost three years causing great physical and mental harm
to the whole of the 1.5 million people entrapped within Gaza,” the UN
independent expert said. “Such a massive form of collective punishment is
a crime against humanity, as well as a gross violation of the prohibition
on collective punishment in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
“As Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, familiar
with the suffering of the people of Gaza, I find this latest instance of
Israeli military lawlessness to create a situation of regional and global
emergency. Unless prompt and decisive action is taken to challenge the
Israeli approach to Gaza all of us will be complicit in criminal policies
that are challenging the survival of an entire beleaguered community.”
Mr. Falk urged the world community “to take urgent action in response to
this flagrant flouting of international law. It is time to insist on the
end of the blockade of Gaza. The worldwide campaign of boycott,
divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political
imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere.”
Learn more about the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967:
OHCHR Country Page – Israel:
OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories:
For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (Tel:
+41 22 928 9603 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
PRESS RELEASE, 31 May 2010
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network condemns the Israeli naval attack against “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) strongly condemns the Israeli military attack on the flotilla of ships that was carrying humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza and resulted in the killings of at least fifteen civilians and the injury of dozens of others.
The flotilla was met with unprecedented violence. This international aid convoy included MPs from Israel and Germany, human rights activists, writers, scientists, and journalists from Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria and France. The Israeli military intercepted it in international waters; it acted illegally by violently and unjustifiably targeting civilians.
Israel strictly controls the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza as part of its policy of isolation. It is especially evident that the blockade of the Gaza Strip, in place since 2007, constitutes the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore must be lifted immediately.
The EMHRN firmly condemns the attack on the ships which resulted in death and injury of the civilian activists, and calls for an immediate, independent and impartial investigation, which should be monitored by the international community. The EMHRN also expresses its concern for all the civilians who have been arrested following the attack on the flotilla, and urges the European Union (EU) to closely follow their situation to ensure that all of their rights under international and domestic law are scrupulously respected.
Finally, the EMHRN calls on the EU High Representative, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and the EU institutions to immediately take all measures at their disposal to halt the intolerable human rights violations committed by Israel in and around the Gaza strip, to ensure accountability for the victims of violations of international law, and to urge Israel to immediately lift the blockade.
Open letter from the Palestinian Association to the Prime minister Mr. David Cameron
10 Downing Street, London
31 May 2010
Dear Mr. Cameron
The association of the Palestinian community in the United Kingdom strongly condemns the crime committed by Israeli army in the international waters off coast of Gaza against civilian peace activists who had sailed towards Gaza to break the unjust siege against the people of Gaza.
This was a premeditated crime that had been well rehearsed ahead of the arrival of the freedom FLOTILLA and it resulted in loss of live amongst the peace activists aboard the vessels that were attacked, the activists posed no threat to Israel and were merely taken much needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza and demonstrating the support for its inhabitants.
The Israeli attack on them is a provocation to the international community and a violation of humanitarian values.
We call on you to condemn this criminal act, to call for the criminal prosecution of those responsible for this unwarranted act of violence and to do your at most to pressure Israel in lifting its unjust and suffocating siege of Gaza and its long-suffering people.
Thank you for your time and attention
The executive community of the Palestinian association in the UK.
Pravda report, 31 May 2010
Israel Imposes Blackout on the Number Killed on Turkish Ship
Will Turkey act?
Peace activists aboard the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, with hundreds of aid workers and activists aboard, report that they have been attacked. At least 20 persons have been killed at last report and over 50 more wounded. Israeli commandos apparently lowered themselves onto the Mavi Marmara with ropes. Passengers range in age from 88 to a year old and include Christians, Muslims and Jews seeking to end the blockade.
Film footage from the vessel showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead. Israelis shot indiscriminately into groups of sleeping civilians.
Technically speaking, Israel has committed an act of war against Turkey by attacking a ship sailing under the Turkish flag in international waters. Months ago when the mission was in the planning stages, Turkey predicted dire consequences should the Israels attack their ship. The Israeli ambassador was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry Monday after the incident.
“The ambassador (Gabby Levy) was summoned to the foreign ministry. We will convey our reaction in the strongest terms,” the diplomat said.
Shortly afterwards, Israeli military censors ordered a block on all information regarding those injured or killed during the storming of the ship.
No weapons are onboard the humanitarian aid convoy. Gunfire was heard under the cover of darkness. Hundreds of elected officials, former diplomats, aid workers and activists, including a Nobel laureate and many European legislators, are with the flotilla, traveling by sea to Gaza to break Israel’s blockade of the tiny strip of land.
Evidently they are witnessing Israel’s brutality and murderous intentions first hand. Israel is showing itself as a terrorist state, founded and established by acts of terrorism and sustained by state terrorism.
One boat in the aid convoy is flagged and registered in the United States. The ship is U.S. territory under maritime law, and the U.S. government is required to intervene if this “U.S. property” is attacked or illegally confiscated by Israeli authorities.
As of this writing, the attack is ongoing, the total dead and wounded will most likely increase.
Israelis supposedly took over the convoy. Waiting for international reaction…silence? excuses? glossing over? strong words with nothing to back it up? U.S. sending more weapons to Israel by federal express mail??
UN Joint Statement
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and
Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency
31 May 2010
We are shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on board boats carrying supplies for Gaza, apparently in international waters. We condemn the violence and call for it to stop. The situation is still ongoing and we are awaiting confirmation of what has happened. However, we are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation. We are also urging them in the strongest terms to ensure that no further steps are taken that could endanger civilian lives. We wish to make clear that such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release31 May 2010
Israeli killings of Gaza ship activists must be investigated
Amnesty International has called for Israel to launch an immediate credible and independent investigation into the killing by its armed forces of at least 10 activists on boats protesting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“Israeli forces appear clearly to have used excessive force,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Israel says its forces acted in self-defence, alleging that they were attacked by protestors, but it begs credibility that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have been justified. It appears to have been out of all proportion to any threat posed.”
As a first step, Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities to make public immediately the rules of engagement issued to the troops who carried out this lethal attack.
“The activists on the ships made it clear that their primary purpose was to protest against the continuing Israeli blockade, which constitutes a form of collective punishment and so a breach of international law,” said Malcolm Smart.
For nearly three years Israel, which is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, has implemented a policy of banning all movement of goods and people, except for the most basic humanitarian necessities which are imported by international aid agencies. Only a fraction of patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out, and dozens have died waiting for Israeli permission to travel.
“The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” said Malcolm Smart. “Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick.”
“The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.”
Statement from Medical Aid for Palestinians
31 May 2010
Medical Aid for Palestinians strongly condemns the attack on the aid flotilla this morning (31 May 2010), an attack which occurred in international waters and has resulted in the deaths of over a dozen civilians.
The people of Gaza have been living under blockade for almost three years. The blockade means the delay or denial of a broad range of items – food, industrial, educational, medical – deemed “non-essential” for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at the end of decades of occupation.
As the humanitarian crisis deepens, the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are increasingly dependent on international assistance. The relief items in this aid convoy included but a fraction of what is urgently needed in Gaza, including water purification systems, cement for rebuilding, and wheelchairs for persons with disability.
Medical Aid for Palestinians calls for an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The ongoing blockade is collective punishment of an entire civilian population, a measure which is explicitly prohibited under international law.
Inquiries: +44 7795 165 052
Head of Advocacy
Medical Aid for Palestinians
Nobel-winning Elders deplore Gaza flotilla attack
Johannesburg, May 31, 2010
The Elders group of past and present world leaders, including former South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Monday condemned as “completely inexcusable” the deadly Israeli attack on a flotilla carrying aid for Gaza.At least 10 people are reported to have been killed when Israeli commandos raided the boats on Monday in an operation that has drawn international condemnation.
“The Elders have condemned the reported killing by Israeli forces of more than a dozen people who were attempting to deliver relief supplies to the Gaza Strip by sea,” the 12—member group said in a statement issued in Johannesburg, where it met over the weekend.
The group, which was launched by Mr. Mandela on his birthday in 2007 to try to solve some of the world’s most intractable conflicts, called for a “full investigation” of the incident and urged the UN Security Council “to debate the situation with a view to mandating action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.” “This tragic incident should draw the world’s attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18,” the group said.
Israel’s three—year blockade of Gaza was not only “one of the world’s greatest human rights violations” and “illegal” under international law, it was also “counterproductive” because it empowered extremists in the Palestinian territory, they said.
The Elders includes six Nobel peace prize winners — former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, former US president Jimmy Carter, detained Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Mandela and Tutu.
Norway’s first female Prime Minister Gro Brundtland; former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso; former Irish president and ex—UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; Mozambican social activist Graca Machel; Indian women’s rights activist Ela Bhatt; and Algerian veteran UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are the other members.