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May. 31 2010 - 10:35 am | 707 views | 0 recommendations | 10 comments

Israel opens fire on Gaza aid ships, 10+ dead

Over 10 are dead, including a Turkish parliamentarian, are dead after Israel opened fire on a flotilla of Gaza aid ships that departed from Turkey. Israeli naval commandos raided a flotilla that was carrying thousands of tons of supplies to Gaza in a aid/public relations exercise called the “Freedom Flotilla.” 600 total passengers were allgedly on board the ships. The passengers include members of Islamist organizations, trade union activists, politicians and others. 11 Americans, including a former ambassador and a former State Department official, were on the ships.

Turkey has withdrew its ambassador to Israel and over nine countries, including Egypt, France and Sweden, are holding emergency consultations with their respective Israeli ambassadors. Israel’s Arabs are calling for a general strike on Monday, riots are taking place in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Haifa and Israeli air force and navy reservists have allegedly been mobilized.

The timeline of events leading to the Israeli navy attack are uncertain, with the Gaza flotilla representatives and the Israeli military giving alternate versions. According to the Israeli government, they believed that weapons were being smuggled onboard the ships. The link from the Gaza flotilla representatives is video-only; the Ma’an News Agency on the West Bank has a good round-up of overtly pro-Palestinian reportage on the incident. Among the attacked on the boat were Sheik Raed Salah, Israel’s best-known Islamist politician. Palestinian sources report he was shot in the head, Israeli sources report he was not seriously injured.

Israeli naval commandos boarded the flotilla’s ships in international waters after demanding that the flotilla cease traveling to Gaza to either enter Israeli waters for processing or to sail to Cyprus. Israeli navy authorities threatened in advance, in English, that they would open live fire on the ships.

What happened after that is unclear.

Footage of Israeli commandos boarding a flotilla ship clearly shows the aid flotilla passengers attempting to attack the Israelis — keep an eye out for the passenger attempting to stab the soldier in this Israeli-filmed video clip from the ship. The second clip, shot from the air, clearly shows aid ship passengers attacking Israeli soldiers at the beginning of one of the raids:

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera clip filmed immediately before the Israelis broke off communications gives a different narrative:

This story is actively unfolding. For more information, please read the constantly updated liveblogs at The Guardian and left-wing Israeli blog Promised Land.

But first: One thing to say. This was a staggeringly stupid move by Israel.

Israel just happened Hamas a PR coup on a silver platter.

Even if the Israelis were right in their claim that the aid ships were smuggling weapons/money to Hamas… Hamas gets weapons and money everyday from the Gaza tunnels. Letting it through would have been less harmful to Israel — in the short term and long term — than the diplomatic, public image and geopolitical ramifications of opening fire on the blockade ships’ passengers.

More importantly: There are other ways of stopping ships other than by raids with small groups of naval commandos who can easily lose their cool and open fire. So many other ways. Gaza blockade-running ships have been stopped before and sent back to Cyprus and elsewhere — it’s really not that hard. Instead, Israel has provoked a fiasco — and a tragedy that has needlessly taken lives.

Just take the sentence “Israel opens fire on aid ship” and insert “Iran,” “North Korea,” or “Russia.” You would be in arms, wouldn’t you?

I have the greatest love and affection for the Israeli people… but to Israel’s government: WTF?


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  1. collapse expand

    “But first: One thing to say. This was a staggeringly stupid move by Israel.”


    • collapse expand

      Zaid, There seems to be a training issue here. Who is training these elite commandos to respond to slingshots and clubs, wielded by civilians, by opening fire with automatic weapons?
      Moreover, who is training the Israel Defense Force on the occupied West Bank to respond to rock-throwing by aiming tear gas canisters at civilians’ heads and/or firing indiscriminately at them with automatic weapons?
      Add to this the bungled Mossad hit in Dubai, with stolen passports and charades in front of video cameras, and the use of white phosphorus on a civilian population in Gaza.
      Perhaps an overhaul of military training in operations involving civilians is called for.
      This aid convoy situation was not Entebbe, it was not Munich 1972.
      A tragedy. See more discussion here:

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    One has to wonder: what the heck was Israel thinking when they attacked the flotilla heading to Gaza? They had a lot to lose and very little to gain, and they’ve blundered into a PR debacle.

    I referenced this page in a writeup I did on TalkingSkull.com. Here’s the link:

  3. collapse expand

    “It’s worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.”(c)Charles de Talleyrand

  4. collapse expand

    The sad fact is that many every-day products can be used to build the improvised explosive devices that Israel has been suffering for years.

    They have controlled the borders to help stop these sorts of attacks by attempting to limit the constituent elements of the bombs. What the Israelis SHOULD have done would have been to board these vessels, find the constituent parts, and remove them.

    Why this couldn’t be done peacefully is a mystery to me.

    • collapse expand

      They have controlled the borders to help stop these sorts of attacks by attempting to limit the constituent elements of the bombs.

      The things they interdict don’t strike me as very explosive, though. Ginger? Nutmeg? Musical instruments? Framing timber? Concrete?

      It seems like predominantly, their blockade prevents the introduction of things that could make life livable for the Palestinians. It’s clear that the sanctions are intended as punitive, not protective.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    This is classic Israeli thuggery and brutality funded by our American tax dollars. Gaza is concentration camp courtesy of Israeli barbarism. As Americans of conscience, we must demand an immediate end to Israeli foreign aid. No more of our tax dollars to fund this brutal terrorist organization.

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    About Me

    A New York-based journalist and blogger who has spent extensive time in the Middle East and is currently working on an MA thesis in Middle Eastern Studies. My thesis focuses on the 2009 Iranian election demonstrations and their coverage in the international media.

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    Contributor Since: July 2009
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