Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Ships, Killing At Least 19
Mon May 31, 2010 14:46

Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Ships, Killing At Least 19

Posted By Jason Ditz On May 31, 2010 @ 6:33 am In
Israel had telegraphed its move for weeks. They had promised to stop the aid ships at all cost, they had promised to use force against the aid workers. Somehow, no amount of official bellicosity could prepare anyone for the carnage that unfolded.
The Mavi Marmara

At least 19 aid workers were killed and dozens of others wounded when Israeli commandos, backed up with helicopters, boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of the six aid ships, and opened fire on the passengers.

It was by no means the largest massacre of civilians in Israeli history, or even recent Israeli history, but unlike the others there was no way to couch the deliberate attack on a civilian aid vessel in international waters as Hamas’ fault, or an example of human shields, or even a narrow miss of the real target.

Indeed it has spawned what must be among the lamest attempts at hasbara (public explanation) in Israel’s sordid history, as one of the commandos in the region’s most heavily armed military explained opening fire on civilians by saying “they beat us up with metal sticks.”

Metal sticks notwithstanding, the aid flotilla was violating no international laws in trying to deliver medicine and food to civilian victims of an Israeli blockade. Israel on the other hand was most assuredly violating international law in attacking an unarmed aid ship on the open sea.

There has been talk in the past of Israel running afoul of international piracy laws for capturing previous aid ships. Say what you will of that, but in the previous engagements Israel didn’t massacre the crew, they just took them captive and held them on dubious charges.

Even Israel’s right-far-right coalition seems to have some sense of wrongdoing here, even if they would never admit so publicly. After making a big deal of setting up Ashdod as a “welcoming” facility to process the 700 soon-to-be-captives and loading it up with favorable media, Israel re-routed the ships to Haifa, to escape scrutiny of their handiwork.

The reaction to the massacre has already been enormous. At least five countries have already summoned Israeli ambassadors to demand explanations for the massacre, while thousands of protesters in Istanbul stormed into the Israeli consulate just after the story broke.

A top Fatah official predicted the massacre would enhance the ongoing boycott against Israel and would cause an increasing number of European states, many of whom had MPs on the aid ships, to turn against them. While it is too soon to gauge the level of international outrage it cannot but be noted that people have said the same thing about previous Israeli atrocities, only to find that international support runs far deeper than anyone had imagined.

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Israel Navy commandos: Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us
Nine activists on board Gaza-bound flotilla killed in violent clashes when Israel Navy commandos boarded ships; 7 commandos hurt, 2 seriously.
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Anshel Pfeffer and News Agencies

Activists on board a six-ship flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip tried to lynch the Israel Navy commandos who boarded their Turkish-flagged boat early Monday, Israel Defense Forces sources told Haaretz on Monday afternoon. At least nine people were killed and several more were wounded in the fighting that erupted aboard one of the ships.

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.

One of the commandos told reporters he descended by rope from a helicopter onto one of the six ships in the convoy and was immediately attacked by a group of people waiting for them.

"They beat us with metal sticks and knives," he said. "There was live fire at some point against us."

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 a 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."

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."

Elite troops from Shayetet 13, a naval commando unit, boarded the protest boats at around 4:00 A.M. Al Jazeera reported Monday morning that the Gaza aid flotilla had changed course to avoid a confrontation with Israeli warships.

Some 700 pro-Palestinian activists were on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators. The boats were carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza.

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 conv9oy 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.


Official: Obama Made Secret Pledges to Israel Over NPT

Posted By Jason Ditz On May 30, 2010 @ 5:49 pm In Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Already expressing its “regrets” for the call for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East as soon as they had signed it, more reports are emerging indicating that the Obama Administration’s official “support” for the idea is incredibly narrow and comes with strings attached.

According to one unnamed Israeli official, President Obama made secret pledges to Israel before agreeing to the deal, promising to preserve and even strength Israel’s “strategic” arsenal.

Israel has condemned the call for a nuclear free Mideast as “hypocritical” and noted that it does not feel bound by the NPT conference declaration. Israel is the only non-signatory to the NPT in the Middle East and also the only nuclear weapons state in the region.

Arab nations had expressed hope that the Obama Administration’s support for the proposal was a sign that Israel’s days of having a large, undeclared arsenal free of international oversight were coming to an end. It seems, however, that the signing will be milked for all it can provide President Obama politically, then discarded in favor of the same old policy.

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