BBC – Deaths as Israeli forces storm Gaza aid ship – BBC page last updated at 6:34 GMT, Monday, 31 May 2010 7:34 UK
“Witness in Gaza” for up to date news from the Gaza Freedom flotilla
white28 May, 2010 23:06
Please respond to Miri Weingarten
MEDIA ALERT: Aid flotilla, Israeli navy heading for confrontation near Gaza coast
*British / English-speaking contacts aboard the boats available for comment*
Read the JNews report to learn more about the context of the aid flotilla and planned Israeli response to it: As aid flotilla approaches Gaza’s shores, Israel takes extraordinary steps to prevent it reaching its destination
Available for comment aboard the boats:
Greta Berlin, Coordinator of the flotilla. A co-founder of the “Free Gaza Movement,” she is a US citizen and a Jewish peace activist.
CONTACT DIRECTLY: Phones: +357.991.87275 +357 990 81767, +357 964 89805 or Via Blackberry email@example.com
Other British and English-speaking contacts on board:
Cliff Hanley (Palestine Solidarity Campaign): +44 7904503 264
Huwaida Arraf (Free Gaza Movement): +30 6983046697
Sarah Colborne (Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK): Twitter: @sncolborne; via Blackberry
Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Prize laureate and renowned Irish peace activist)
Denis Healey (one of the captains)
Theresa McDermott (crew)
Alex Harrison (crew)
Alexander Evangelou (crew)
Cyprus contact numbers: 00 357 99 18 72 78 or 00 357 96 48 98 05
*Access to phones is intermittent: follow PSC twitter feed for regular updates from the ship @pal_s_campaign , @freegazaorg
For support on this story or additional contact requests:
Miri Weingarten (+44) (0) 7531719159
Harriet Sherwood, Israeli navy prepares for action as activists’ flotilla nears Gaza, Guardian Friday 28 May 2010 19.10 BST
ISM reports on Israel’s Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 28 May 2010
Diaa Hadid reports that Israel’s Gaza blockade baffles residents, Associated Press 28 May
Ships Head to Gaza, in Defiance of Israeli Blockade, Isabel Kershner, New York Times 27 May 2010 – good overview
Israel to activists: Fly home at Israel’s expense, Ynetnews, 27 May 2010
Israel will try to block flotilla from reaching Gaza, but will let aid through, Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 27 May 2010
Gourmet Flotilla to Gaza, Gisha, 27 May 2010
Polish MPs support humanitarian flotilla to Gaza, Monday May 24th 2010
JERUSALEM — Israel was preparing on Thursday for a showdown with a flotilla of up to nine vessels carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and thousands of tons of supplies headed for Gaza, the Hamas-run coastal enclave. It was the most ambitious attempt so far to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.
Israel, which says it allows basic supplies into Gaza through crossing points along the land border, denounced the flotilla as a political provocation and has vowed not to let the boats reach Gaza. It has invited the flotilla to land at an Israeli port, Ashdod, instead.
Gaza has been under an Israeli- and Egyptian-imposed blockade since Hamas, the Islamic militant group that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, took over the territory by force in 2007. Israel, the United States and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. The activists said the boats, which were expected to reach the coast sometime this weekend, were carrying 10,000 tons of cargo including cement, school supplies and medical equipment aimed at easing the hardship in Gaza.
Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Israeli military’s chief liaison with the Palestinian-controlled territories, said Israel’s policy was very clear. Briefing a group of foreign reporters in Tel Aviv earlier this week, he said that Israel had offered the activists the chance to unload their cargo at Ashdod. Israel, he said, would be willing to transfer it, after inspection, to Gaza. But he added, “We will not allow ships to come to Gaza while Hamas is in control there.”
In a news statement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry this week, Sarah Weiss Maudi, the ministry’s expert on maritime and humanitarian law, said the maritime blockade was in force “because Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime” in Gaza. Hamas, she continued, “has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel proper with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza by various routes, including the sea.”
Israel was preparing to intercept the boats and divert them, if necessary, to Ashdod. Large tents and other facilities have been set up at the port to receive the activists, who number up to 800 and include a number of public officials. An Israeli Arab lawmaker was aboard one of the boats.
From Ashdod, the activists will either be voluntarily deported or detained.
The approaching flotilla has, meanwhile, set off a public relations war regarding the situation in Gaza.
General Dangot and other Israeli officials insist no humanitarian crisis exists. Anticipating the bad publicity that was bound to accompany the arrival of the boats, the military and the Foreign Ministry published detailed reports this week of the almost 100,000 tons of supplies Israel says it has allowed into Gaza this year. Israel says the import of cement and iron has been greatly restricted because Hamas uses those materials to manufacture rockets and bunkers. Nevertheless, it has allowed some building materials in for about a dozen infrastructure projects supervised by international bodies.
In a sarcastic e-mail message to reporters this week, Israel’s Government Press Office recommended a high-end eatery in Gaza, the Roots Club and Restaurant, attaching the menu and a link to its Web site. “We have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended,” the Government Press Office said.
The restaurant would, of course, be out of reach for most of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Israeli military officials put unemployment there at almost 40 percent.
International organizations active in Gaza also paint a very different picture. A United Nations Development Program report published on May 23 determined that about three-quarters of the damage caused by Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 had not yet been repaired. And a May 25 report by the United Nations humanitarian coordinator blamed the blockade for “suffocating” the agricultural sector in Gaza and said that insufficient food was now an issue in more than 60 percent of households.
The Free Gaza Movement has organized at least four aid voyages since the summer of 2008, usually consisting of one or two vessels. The earliest ones were allowed to reach Gaza. Others have been intercepted and forced back, and one, last June, was commandeered by the Israeli Navy and towed to Ashdod.
In other developments, police officers in Jerusalem on Thursday arrested two ultranationalist Israeli activists after they hurled insults at the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as he toured the Old City with his family, a police spokesman said. Angry at what they view as the Obama administration’s anti-Israel policies, right-wing activists had been waiting to confront Mr. Emanuel, who was in Israel on a private visit to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his 13-year-old son.
One of the arrested ultranationalists, both of them well-known provocateurs, could be heard yelling, “Shame on you, you hate Israel” and “Traitor,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Israel will try to block flotilla from reaching Gaza, but will let aid through, Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 27 May 2010
Israel will attempt to block the flotilla of pro-Palestinian demonstrators heading toward Gaza with humanitarian supplies, the forum of seven senior ministers decided yesterday. Humanitarian cargo, however, would be unloaded and inspected at Ashdod and sent to Gaza via the United Nations.
The flotilla’s organizers seek to disrupt Israel’s efforts to limit supplies into the Hamas-controlled territory.
After hearing from defense officials, the ministers decided not to allow the ships to dock in Gaza, but to let the cargo through.
The ministers decided that the ships would be directed to Ashdod by force if necessary. The activists would be arrested and expelled from the country. At the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser was a dissenting voice – he suggested that the ships be allowed to dock in the Strip.
The flotilla is expected to approach Gaza by the weekend. A senior source in Jerusalem said the forum of seven convened to discuss the potential negative media fallout abroad if the navy intercepts the ships. The ministers met before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left on a trip to Europe and North America.
The ministers decided that foreign journalists would be allowed to be present on Israel Navy ships during the operation in a bid to produce more favorable coverage abroad.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak surprised his colleagues at the meeting when he described a suggestion by journalist Eitan Haber, who reportedly proposed that the demonstrators be greeted at Ashdod by women soldiers dressed in white. They would give the activists letters destined for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, after which their ships would be allowed to sail on to Gaza.
Another participant suggested that a collection of rockets that had been fired at the Sderot area from Gaza be put on display at Ashdod Port for the activists and foreign media to see.
The Israel Defense Forces expects that the ships will refuse to retreat and there will be a confrontation at sea with the navy. The flotilla is thought to be carrying nearly 800 passengers, including 350 Turkish nationals.
Most of the others are from European countries and the Muslim world. Among the passengers are 35 parliamentarians and a number of Israeli Arabs, including the head of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, Mohammed Zeidan; the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah; and Knesset member Hanin Zuabi (Balad ).
Anshel Pfeffer and Jack Khoury contributed to this article.
Full statement can be found here.
Gourmet Flotilla to Gaza
Gisha Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2010
At a time when Israel’s security officials should probably be focused on this week’s extensive home front security drill, it seems that that most of their attention is being paid to the flotilla of ships on its way to the Gaza Strip, laden with humanitarian supplies.
Frantic consultations between officials and the prime minister’s top military chiefs of staff have taken place, an urgent meeting of a forum of senior government ministers was held, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged in extensive activities, and an urgent press conference was held at the Erez border crossing. In particular, the Israeli government’s public relations machine has been mobilized with the intent of persuading the public that there is no need for the flotilla, due to the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is fine, the Strip’s markets are abundant, and its gourmet restaurants are thriving.
Of course, an initial question comes to mind – if there is such prosperity, then how exactly is the closure policy promoting Israel’s goal to weaken the Hamas government? But beyond that, the government’s message is likely to be confusing to the layperson. For example, if the economic situation in Gaza is so magnificent, as stated in the cynical message distributed by the Government Press Office yesterday – why does another public statement by the State of Israel proudly declare that 738,000 tons of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip last year? How, the reader might also ask, are these statements of prosperity compatible with the contradictory information frequently released by international organizations (organizations with whom Israel proudly declares itself to be cooperating)?
Is it not true that 80% of Gaza’s population is supported by international aid organizations? Is it not true that the unemployment rate in Gaza is around 35%? And, how is the decisive statement that “Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce” consistent with the sweeping ban imposed by Israel for the past three years on the entry of raw materials to industrial plants and factories i n the Gaza Strip? Indeed, the ban is perpetuating a situation in which over 90% of industrial establishments are closed or are operating at less than 10% of capacity. Does the fact that Israel prevents the entry of margarine in large containers designed for the production of foodstuffs in Gaza, while it allows the entry of margarine in small packages (made in Israel) promote the economy in Gaza?
But what really may confuse the naive layperson are Israel’s peremptory statements that there is no restriction on the entry of equipment into Gaza, except that which might be used by Hamas for terrorist activities. Based on this, the layperson may conclude that coriander, sage and children’s toys constitute a security risk, given that Israel prohibits the transfer of these goods to Gaza. In addition, he or she might wonder whether shoes and clothes constituted a security threat for 2.5 years before having their status as a security threat recently removed. A layperson might further ask, if Israel’s policy on the restriction of goods really benefits the people of Gaza, then why does Israel insist on refusing to reveal the secret of her success, arguing that producing documents explaining its closure policy will harm national security?
All of this is confusing not just to the layperson but also to the passengers on the ships. Israel states repeatedly, time and again that the organizers of the flotilla should transfer the goods “in accordance with procedure”. Yet how are they to know what these procedures are, if Israel refuses to disclose them?
Freedom Flotilla | Witness Gaza
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Israeli disinformation cannot hide the siege of Gaza
For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. This weekend, 9 civilian boats carrying 700 human rights workers from 40 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid will attempt to do just that: break through the Israel’s illegal military blockade on the Gaza Strip in non-violent direct action. In response, the Israeli government has threatened to send out ‘half’ of its Naval forces to violently stop our flotilla, and they have engaged in a deceitful campaign of misinformation regarding our mission.
Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International’s Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”
Israel claims that its blockade is directed simply at the Hamas government in Gaza, and is limited to so-called ’security’ items. Yet When U.S. Senator John Kerry visited Gaza last year, he was shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade included staple food items such as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste. Furthermore, Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, has documented numerous official Israeli government statements that the blockade is intended to put ‘pressure’ on Gaza’s population, and collective punishment of civilians is an illegal act under international law.
Israel claims that if we wish to send aid to Gaza, all we need do is go through ‘official channels,’ give the aid to them and they will deliver it. This statement is both ridiculous and offensive. Their blockade, their ‘official channels,’ is what is directly causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place.
According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “Palestinians in Gaza are being actually ’starved to death,’ receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime… an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.”
Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit’s family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and to attempt to deliver it to Shalit or, if that request was denied, deliver it to officials in the Hamas government. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press. We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.
Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need. These claims only demonstrate how degenerate the political discourse in Israel has become.
Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August—September 2005, Israel maintains “effective control” over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations. Among Israel’s most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” (G IV, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (G IV, art. 33).
Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals, to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel’s policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster. The dire situation that currently exists in Gaza is therefore a result of deliberate policies by Israel designed to punish the people of Gaza. In order to address the calamitous conditions imposed upon the people, one must work to change the policies causing the crisis. The United Nations has referred to Israel’s near hermetic closure of Gaza as “collective punishment,” strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All nations signatory to the Convention have an obligation to ensure respect for its provisions.
Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of nonviolent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.
Gisha expresses sorrow at reports that dozens of civilians have been killed or injured during the Israeli military’s interception of boats bound for the Gaza Strip, carrying humanitarian assistance and hundreds of foreign and Israeli activists, including elected representatives.
This incident is proof that despite claims to the contrary, Israel never “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip but rather continues to control its borders – land, air and sea.
Gisha notes that Israel cannot maintain such control while at the same time renouncing responsibility for its effects on the 1.5 million human beings whose access to the outside world has been cut off nearly hermetically for the past three years. International law requires Israel to permit the kind of access necessary for Gaza residents to live normal, dignified lives.
It would be better for all concerned – Israel, Palestinian residents of Gaza, and those seeking to visit Gaza – if Israel would allow the regular and free passage of people, raw materials for industry, building materials, and export goods in and out of Gaza, subject only to concrete, individual security checks.
For a position paper about Israel’s refusal to reveal information about the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip (despite a Freedom of Information Act petition brought by Gisha), click here.
For a position paper on Israeli legal obligations in Gaza, see Gisha, Disengaged Occupiers, January 2007.
31 May 2010
The Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and deplored the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla.
In a statement this morning the Foreign Secretary said:
“I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.
We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries.
This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.
I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.”
Uri Avnery: this night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command
A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists
It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do
“Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that – consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.
“Noone in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with,” said former Knesset member Uri Avnery of the Gush Shalom movement. Gush Shalom activists together with activists of other organizations are to depart at 11:00 from Tel Aviv to protest in front of the prepared detention facility where the international peace activists will be brought.
Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers located in Cyprus, told Gush Shalom activists that the Israeli commandos landed by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.
This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel’s already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.
Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza – but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.
It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not “disengage” from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.
The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy. It’s time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza. Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue – and rightly so – to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there.
Contact: Uri Avnery 0505-306449
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesman 03-5565804 or 054-2340749
Coalition Against the Siege Yacov – 050-5733276, 09-7670801, Sebastian -050-6846056
Greta Berlin spokeswoman for flotilla organizers