UPDATE: 19 KILLED –Israelis gun down activists on boats carrying aid to Gaza
This report was updated at 10:53 a.m. on Monday
From Larry Johnson’s blog: Looking for Trouble.
As many as 19 people were killed on boats carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza were attacked tonight by Israeli forces while the flotilla was still in international water, according to activists on the ships and news reports.
The latest Al Jazeera report says that:
“Israeli commandos have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships off the coast of the Gaza Strip, killing up to 19 people on board.
Dozens of others were injured when troops raided the convoy of six ships, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, early on Monday.
Israel said activists on board attacked its commandos as they boarded the ships, while the flotilla’s organisers (Free Gaza Movement) said the Israeli forces opened fire first, as soon as they stormed the convoy.”
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.
Footage from the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops had used live ammunition during the operation.
The Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire “after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects.”
No one on the ships was armed.
BBC reported that:
“The Israeli navy has stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, with reports of at least two people killed.
Armed forces boarded the vessels overnight, clashing with some of the 600 protesters on board.
The exact location of the interception is unclear. Israel had warned the ships not to enter its territorial waters.
The ships are carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to try to break an Israeli-led blockade.
Turkish TV pictures taken on board the Turkish ship leading the flotilla show Israeli soldiers fighting to control passengers.
The footage showed a number of people, apparently injured, lying on the ground. The sound of gunshots could be heard. It is not clear whether the fighting is continuing.”
An earlier statement on the website of the Free Gaza Movement said:
On May 24, 2010, the Freedom Flotilla sets sail for Gaza determined to, once again, challenge Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in an open-air prison. Under the coordination of the Free Gaza Movement, numerous human rights organizations, including the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH), the Perdana Global Peace Organization from Malaysia, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, and the Swedish and Greek Boat to Gaza initiatives will send three cargo ships loaded with reconstruction, medical and educational supplies. At least five passenger boats with over 600 people on board will accompany the cargo ships.
These passengers include members of Parliament from around the world, U.N., human rights and trade union activists, as well as journalists who will document the largest coordinated effort to directly confront Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and take in basic supplies.
The mission, according to the Free Gaza Movement site, is “to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine’s right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.
“We have not and will not ask for Israel’s permission. It is our intent to overcome this brutal siege through civil resistance and non-violent direct action, and establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world.”
The group has stressed that they want to achieve their goals through nonviolence.