Intimidation in Gaza waters

This footage, according to @CPSGaza on Twitter, was lost at sea during this attack by Israeli Navy water cannon (and apparently live fire?), but since recovered from the sea:

Who is giving the orders to this Israeli Naval vessel to attack this monitoring boat with a water cannon? Who is allowing the use of live fire, on this boat, and on the boats of Palestinian fishermen (who also sometimes are targetted by water cannon?
What is the justification?

On Saturday, some of those earlier on board the Olivia, now disabled from the attacks of the Israeli Navy, went out on a Palestinian fishing boat instead.

One on board reported that the Israeli Navy “fired live rounds both in the water and directly at the boat for around 15 or 20 minutes”, and she confirmed here that the “Oliva project is currently on an indefinite hiatus”…

Israeli Navy has now boarded Jewish Boat to Gaza

Haaretz is now reporting that the IDF has announced that its naval forces have boarded the Jewish Boat that wanted to go to Gaza. This is posted here.

According to Haaretz, “A navy boat shadowing the ‘Irene’ made radio contact with the activists late Tuesday morning, asking: ‘Where are you going? Where did you come from? What nationalities are on board?’ according to the [Jewish Boat to Gaza] website. The crew replied: ‘They came from Farmagusta, the nationalities on board are British, American, German and Israelis, we are going!’ the website said” …

They are reportedly now going to Ashdod.

The Jewish Boat to Gaza website says the last known location of the boat this morning was 31 47 N and 34 12 E [n.b. – in the vicinity of the pushpins labelled k4 and n on our next graphic further down, after this one]:

View Larger Map

They promise to update via google maps from their page, here.

Here is a graphic of where the Mavi Marmara was attacked and boarded on 31 May, kindly prepared for us by our friend Alethia Kallos, after the Freedom Flotilla fiasco. The interception point, then, was out on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean, at 32° 00′ 29.80 N and 33° 50′ 15.35 E:

Alethia Kallos graphic of blockaded Gaza maritime area and Flotilla intercept point

The interception point is interesting because it indicates that the Israeli military establishment has taken the advice reportedly given by the Israeli Foreign Ministry before the 31 May fiasco involving the Freedom Flotilla — which was not to intercept the Flotilla on the high seas but rather close to, if not at, the defined limitations of the declared Israeli naval blockade of Gaza Strip.

After the fiasco, there was also shocked criticism from commentors, who noted that the Israeli legal defense offered at the time was that the IDF had a right to stop, anywhere in the world, any ship intending to violate its declared blockade. This could have been interpreted to mean that Israel was effectively threatening to mount a missile attack on a ship in a Cyprus harbor before embarking for Gaza — or at an even earlier point, in fact, at any port around the world.

Continue reading Israeli Navy has now boarded Jewish Boat to Gaza

Israeli warships now escorting boat of Jewish activists who were heading to Gaza

As the Irene approached the declared limits of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space, which extends 20 miles from the shoreline straight out to sea in the eastern Mediterranean, an Israeli warship approached. Within a half hour, the Israeli Navy was reportedly escorting the small ship.

At 10h42 this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported: “The army established contact with the captain, and asked him where we are headed,” Rami Elhanan said. “The navy asked to bypass the ship from 5 miles to the right, and we complied. We said we are headed to Gaza and sailing under the British flag”” Elhanan added. Elhanan also reported that the captain was not told that the boat will be stopped. “I have no idea when, if at all, we will be intercepted,” he said. This is posted here.

UPDATE: Elhanan told YNet (see below) that “We are surrounded by at least 10 Navy ships. They are probably going to collide with us any minute. They are demanding that we stop and threatening that if we fail to do so, it may end with casualties. We are moving forward in full force, hugging each other and singing songs”…

Israeli authorities have said they intend to stick to their policy of bringing the boat to Israel’s southern port of Ashdod for “the usual”.

There are reportedly 10 activists, some of them Israeli, and a symbolic amount of cargo destined for Gaza, on board the 33-foot British-flagged catamaran.

Another option, presumably before the point of interception, would have been to say that they were going to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

But, the Jewish Boat to Gaza wants to go … to Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post reported shortly after 10 a.m. that the Captain, Glynn Secker, “says his boat is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Gaza and that expects the navy to intercept the Irene within the next hours. The Israeli military said Tuesday it would not intervene until the boat tries to breach the blockade”.

YNet has reported that “The IDF announced it would notify the captain that he will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza, and that troops would raid the small boat only if it tried to breach the blockade”. The ship’s Captain, Glynn Secker, said: “We will not obey them, we will not help them … But we will not confront them physically. We will engage in no violence”.

According to the YNet report, here, the ship would have docked in Gaza withing three hours.

Itamar Shapira told YNet “The IDF has not spoken to us yet, but we have understood that it declared it would stop us 40 kilometers from the shore“…

Reuven Moskowitz, the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who is one of the founders of Neve Shalom, an Israeli Jewish + Arab coexistence enterprise, told YNet that “We are an extraordinary people. We are only sorry that they plan to stop us and remind everyone that a true hero is one who tries to turn an enemy into a friend … In any case we refuse to recognize the IDF’s right to arrest us in Gaza’s territorial waters when all we want to do is bring them harmonicas, toys, and some medicine” …

Libyan-chartered ship is now moored at El-Arish

The drama is over.

Just as the plan indicated, the Amalthea, a Libyan-chartered Greek cargo ship carrying food and medicine destined for Gaza went to the Egyptian port of El-Arish, on the northern coast of the Sinai peninsula, east of the Suez Canal, and not very far from the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip.

The Amalthea is one of seven ships now moored off El-Arish, and it is expected to dock imminently.

However, until the last minute, officials of the Gadhafi charity which chartered the ship insisted that their destination was Gaza.

Haaretz has reported that for the final day of its trip, “Israeli naval vessels were shadowing and monitoring the Amalthea, which had been immobile for much of the night due to engine trouble. ‘We are not surrounding; we are following’, a military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said … An Al-Jazeera correspondent aboard the ship said two of the Israeli ships were on the port side of the vessel, to prevent it from changing direction and sailing to Gaza”.

Continue reading Libyan-chartered ship is now moored at El-Arish

Tracking the Libyan-chartered boat

A Libyan-chartered boat, loaded with 2,000 tons of food and medical supplies destined for Gaza, was immobile for several hours earlier Tuesday in the waters of the Mediterranean off Port Said, Egypt. It began to move again around 5 pm.

It could be headed to the Egyptian port of El-Arish, as it has apparently official listed as its destination, or to Israel’s Ashdod Port — or even to Gaza.

People associated either with the ship or with the Libyan aid group that chartered it have sounded accommodating and non-confrontational for days. Yet, as some Palestinians [in Gaza and in Jerusalem] — and others — encourage the ship to head to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s formal naval blockade, Israeli military officials have raised their tone as well.

UPDATE: The IDF spokesperson has just sent a tweet assuring that “Contrary to media reports, no ultimatum was issued to crew of Libyan boat by Israeli Navy … Rather, the Navy had emphasized that the boat could not be allowed to enter Gaza Port” A few hours earlier, the IDF sent these two tweets: “Israeli Navy has begun preparations to stop Libyan boat in case boat persists in trying to enter maritime closure area”. and “The Israeli Navy has initiated communication with the Libyan ship”. It is still not clear, but the boat appears to be turning slightly in the direction of El-Arish.

Continue reading Tracking the Libyan-chartered boat

Investigation: the MV Rachel Corrie

Derek Graham, First Mate of the MV Rachel Corrie, said in a telephone interview from Ireland today that the ship was 35 miles off Gaza’s coast — clearly in international waters — when it was stopped and boarded by the Israeli Navy last weekend.

“As soon as the first Israeli soldier put his hand on our boat, I sent out distress signals”, Graham said. “I also stated clearly on the [open] VHF radio channel that we were not in Israeli waters but in international waters”.

UPDATE on Saturday 12 June: Derek Graham said that he is waiting for confirmation — from those international bodies to whom he sent out the distress signals — of the geographical coordinates of the MV Rachel Corrie at the moment he sent out the emergency communications, and promised to send the coordinates when he has that confirmation.

Graham said in the telephone interview that the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (and/or) Free Gaza movement would be putting out videos that show his radio exchanges with the Israeli naval warships that had come to intercept the MV Rachel Corrie, which was originally part of the Freedom Flotilla but which arrived off Gaza’s shore five days after the tragic boarding of the six other Flotilla boats further north, off Israel’s coast, but still well out in international waters. 

According to Graham, the MV Rachel Corrie and all six other boats in the Freedom Flotilla are still detained in Israel’s Ashdod Port, all lined up in a row — “and the Rachel Corrie is parked right behind the Mavi Marmara”, he noted. 

The Mavi Marmara was the largest vessel in the Freedom Flotilla, and was carrying over 600 passengers when it was boarded by Israeli commandos early last Monday morning. All of the nine deaths reported so far took place aboard the Mavi Marmara. 


Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid reported today that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs “warned Israel Navy not to raid Gaza flotilla in international waters.  In preparatory discussions, government cautioned that such an action would hamper Israel on the diplomatic and public relations front worldwide”. 

The article stated that “During the government’s preparatory discussions over how to handle the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the Foreign Ministry advised that Israel’s security forces wait for the ships to reach the country’s territorial waters – which lie within 20 miles from the coast – before launching a takeover operation”. 

Continue reading Investigation: the MV Rachel Corrie

Overwhelmed with grief

Grief. Grief. Too much grief.

They didn’t think Israel would do it — they didn’t believe Israel would use overwhelming force against the Freedom Flotilla.

The Israeli Navy reportedly intercepted the Freedom Flotilla in international waters — it’s last reported position (at 04:30 GMT) before the IDF attack, was at Latitude:32.64113, Longitude:33.56727

Does it do any good to hold demonstrations now? These protests should have been going on for the past few days — demanding that the Flotilla ships get through to Gaza with their passengers cargo in safety.
AP says the largest number of deaths in the storming of the ships were Turkish (six killed). Five were Israeli citizens — Israeli Arab Palestinians, from Haifa, on board the Flotilla. Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern Islamic Front movement, a figure particularly loathed by the Israeli political echelons, is in very serious condition after being shot in the head. He underwent surgery at Tel Hashomer hospital. Later Israeli reports contradicted this news, and said Sheikh Salah received only minor injuries.

Israeli Arab communities will hold a general strike on Tuesday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.

Turkey called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council (Turkey is presently one of the non-permanent Council members), and for a meeting of NATO.

UPDATE: The Turkish Foreign Minister went to UNHQ/NY to present his country’s case at the UN Security Council meeting.

Turkey recalled its Ambassador from Israel, and Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt were among the countries which summoned the Israeli Ambassadors in their capitals.

AP reported that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “It should be known that we are not going to remain silent in the face of this inhumane state terrorism”, and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Turkey was canceling three joint military drills and that a Turkish youth soccer team currently in Israel would be brought home.

According to another report by AP, “The White House said in a written statement that the United States ‘deeply regrets’ the loss of life and injuries sustained … and was ‘currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy’.”

Meanwhile, yet another AP story reported that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli naval commandos who raided a Gaza aid flotilla “were under attack and acting in self defense … Netanyahu says Israel wanted to check the cargo to ensure it contained no weapons. He says this was done successfully with five ships, but the sixth did not cooperate. He says hundreds of people on board that ship beat, clubbed and stabbed soldiers, and there was a report of gunfire”. This news report is posted here.

Netanyahu was due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, but the meeting has been cancelled as Netanyahu, who was in Canada, is flying back to Israel to deal with the crisis that followed this Israeli attack.

He said before leaving that “we regret the loss of life”, and he wished a speedy recovery to those injured — including four Israeli soldiers, he said. He said, rather disingenuously, that Israel tries to bring in all kinds of humanitarian goods – “any kind of goods meant for peace” — to Gaza, while keeping out weapons that could be used against Israel.

The IDF later reported that seven of its soldiers were wounded.

Commentators have noted that the Freedom Flotilla — and the tragic denouement of its mission — have put the spotlight on Israel’s policy of restricted supplies to Gaza, and on Israel’s restrictions of movement into and out of the Gaza Strip.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) has joined its “sister organization”, the original Israeli Peace Now, in “expressing outrage at the way Israel’s government is dealing with people who challenge its policies”. The two organizations calleerd “for an end to the radicalization of the Israeli government’s language and policy.”

“It is becoming increasingly common for Israeli officials and pundits to refer to challenges to its policy as ‘terrorism’ – we hear terms like ‘economic terrorism’ used to describe a Palestinian Authority effort to boycott products made in Israeli settlements, ‘popular terror’ to describe non-violent protest, and ‘cultural terror’ to describe pressure on international artists to cancel appearances in Israel. This past week we heard terms like ‘violent propaganda’ to describe the Gaza flotilla, even before any clash when it acts in genuine self-defense. It also makes almost inevitable the kind of tragedy that is unfolding today”, said an APN statement issued Monday, which can read in full here.

There are very contradictory reports of how events happened this morning.

Flotilla participants said that shots were fired at the ship even before Israeli commandos rappelled down to the deck from hovering helicopters. But, when the commandos landed on the ship, they said they felt their lives were in danger — see the IDF Youtube video here — and then greater force was used. But, what did the IDF think would happen when those first commandos dropped from the sky?

All of the deaths reportedly were on on the Mavi Marmara, which was carrying at least 600 people.

Out of 80 people taken from the boats on shore at Israel’s Ashdod Port at last report, 16 were already transferred to Beersheva Prison for “non-cooperation”. UPDATE: Haaretz is reporting that at least 32 of the Flotilla participants have been jailed.

UPDATE: Israeli Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, of the Balad (country”) party, who was also on board the Mavi Marmara, has reportedly “been removed from her boat” and is unharmed. [Was she released?] Yesterday, right-wing Knesset members said Zoabi should be arrested and tried for treason…

Three Israeli human rights organizations — Adalah, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel — have filed a habeas corpus petition with the Israeli Supreme Court concerning the Flotilla Participants who are being held either in tents at Ashdod Port pending deportation or at Beersheva prison, asking for the names of those who have been killed or injured, and the names and locations and status of those who are detained.

Another Israeli human rights organization, GISHA, said in a statement that it “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”.