Well, it seems that the Gaza aid ships have been stormed. Sadly, lives have been lost.
Israel says its soldiers boarded the lead ship in the early hours but were attacked with axes, knives, bars and at least two guns.
“Unfortunately this group were dead-set on confrontation,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC.
“Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100% clear,” he said.
Organisers of the flotilla said at least 30 people were wounded in the incident. Israel says 10 of its soldiers were injured, one seriously.
A leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, who was on board, was among those hurt.
Audrey Bomse, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement, which is behind the convoy, told the BBC Israel’s actions were disproportionate.
“We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn’t get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance.”
Video from the takeover reveals several “peace sticks” that were used in peaceful hitting by the activists. Some news reports state that deaths occurred when those rounded up tried to peacefully grab weapons off the commandos in order to spray (what would have become) peaceful bullets all over their captors.
These people knew they were going to be boarded. I almost wonder if they carried any aid at all, since they knew carrying any would be a waste of time.
As the video shows, they certainly didn’t comply when boarded. Had they complied with orders, they might still be able to claim a peaceful protest, and their claims that they didn’t fire on the solders might have some weight.
I’ve seen enough of the websites these people run to know enough about them. They’re consumed with hatred – for capitalism, for the west, for Israel. To them, their cause is so just, they feel quite free to call their protest peaceful even if they’re burning buildings and shooting potentially deadly missiles at people.
Nonetheless, it’s still very sad.
Update: More at Pajamas Media
The Israeli government, after a short period of debate, decided that it will intercept the convoy as it has done with other ships heading for Gaza — enforcing the blockade established in 2007 in coordination with the Egyptians after the ascent of Hamas to power. The IDF announced that the ships will be stopped by the Israeli navy, boarded, and then escorted to Ashdod, where the cargo will be unloaded and then transferred to Gaza.
Following that announcement, the father of the kidnapped soldier made his offer.
He said he would give the convoy his stamp of approval and use his considerable moral leverage to pressure Israel to allow the convoy to continue to Gaza — if the organizers of the cruise agreed to make contact with his son:
Attorney Nick Kaufman, who approached the Free Gaza Movement on behalf of the kidnapped soldier’s family, told Ynet that he offered the flotilla’s organizers the family’s full support, provided that “in addition to their demand that Israel lift its blockade they will urge Hamas to allow the soldier to receive letters and food packages from his family and allow international organizations to visit him.”
According to Kaufman, he was referred to the movement’s legal counsel, who rejected the offer. “I thought this movement supports human rights, as it claims, but according to the reaction it seems that it is only interested in provocation and expressing support for a terror group that doesn’t really care about human rights,” said the attorney.
Indeed — depressingly, but unsurprisingly — the humanitarian commitment of those aboard the “Freedom Flotilla” does not extend to Gilad Shalit. It doesn’t even sound like they spent much time debating the offer. Almost immediately after the Israeli media announced that it had been extended, it was refused, in keeping with their support of a regime that has held Shalit for four years under conditions that violate international law.
So it’s looking more and more like this was intended all along. Certainly, the rejection of the offer from Noam Shalit was asking very little, and could have (if accepted) lead to the boats not being intercepted.
Interesting how the fact that Israel will pass the aid along anyway isn’t reported.