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Eyewitnesses recount Israel flotilla raid



U.S. activist, Huwaida Arraf replies questions about what went on in her ship (not the Mavi Marmara). She says she saw the IDF attacking Mavi Marmara and heard some shots. Later the soldiers boarded her ship and roughed up the passengers. The passengers told the soldiers that they were unarmed and tried to prevent the soldiers from going on board, but the soldiers handcuffed them and put bags over their heads. They also took all their stuff. The Interviewer asks her if they are in any way affiliated with Hamas, and she replies "Not at all."


CNN's article

Some of the first accounts emerged Tuesday from eyewitnesses who were aboard several boats stormed by Israeli forces as they approached Gaza the day before.
Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, was on board the Miva Marmara, the ship that was the scene of a confrontation between activists and Israeli soldiers. That clash left at least nine people dead.
The Israeli Navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters, Zoabi said during a press conference in Nazareth, Israel. She said passengers on board the ship were unarmed.
Israel has said its forces found several weapons among the passengers on the Miva Marmara. Israel also has said that its forces started shooting after passengers on the Miva Marmara assaulted them.
Zoabi said the military operation lasted about an hour and that she saw five dead bodies in that time.
She urged Israeli authorities to investigate and to let the news media interview passengers who have been detained.
Zoabi said she believes Israel has video footage of how the ten passengers were killed, and she called on Israeli authorities to release that footage.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that of the six ships in the flotilla, the people prepared an ambush on one, a reference to the Turkish ship. But on the other five, "the people got off without a scratch."
Huwaida Arraf, one of the Free Gaza Movement organizers, told CNN Israeli troops roughed her up when they responded aggressively to her ship, a smaller one in the flotilla that was near the Turkish vessel where the casualties occurred.
"They started coming after our ship," she told CNN, "so we took off and they charged us also. Eventually, they overtook our ship and they used concussion grenades, sound bombs and pellets."
She said the people on her ship tried to keep them off. She said they were told the vessel was American and the people aboard were unarmed.
But, she said "they started beating people. My head was smashed against the ground and they stepped on my head. They later cuffed me and put a bag over my head. They did that to everybody."
Her account could not be independently verified.




Israel begins releasing flotilla activists as aid reaches Gaza

Israel began releasing activists detained from a Gaza aid flotilla Tuesday as humanitarian cargo aboard the ships was unloaded and taken into the blockaded Palestinian territory.
Israel's moves came as the Jewish state came under blistering international criticism, especially from Turkey, its closest Muslim ally.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of a "bloody massacre."
"We see clear murder taking place, and we see an aggressive country" that's not regretting this, Erdogan said Tuesday in a parliamentary address. "We're sick and tired of your lies. Be honest."

Also Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak approved the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for humanitarian purposes, state-owned television reported.
The border crossing linking Egypt to Gaza will be kept open for only a few days, Palestinian officials said.

Meanwhile, three people died in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian sources told CNN. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed it launched a strike that generated secondary explosions, suggesting that ammunition or explosives were in that area.
Israeli imposed a blockade of Gaza in 2007 after the militant Hamas took control of the Palestinian area and Egypt closed off the Rafah crossing. The aid flotilla challenged the blockade.
The IDF said the aid aboard the flotilla's three cargo ships had been transferred into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, a main entry point used by Israel.

In the pre-dawn raid, Israeli soldiers rappelled onto the deck of the ships from a helicopter. The boarding of the ships took place in international waters more than 70 nautical miles (130 km) outside Israeli territorial waters, according to IHH, one of the flotilla organizers.
It is not clear how many people died. Israel put the number at nine, but did not release the names of those who died. The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups that organized the six-ship convoy, said the fatalities numbered higher but did not offer an exact number.
Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded in the raid, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday. And Turkey was dispatching three planes to bring back 20 wounded citizens.

Israel described the flotilla as a "provocation" and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a scheduled meeting with Obama this week to return to Israel to manage the crisis.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli troops had faced a lynch mob.
Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told CNN on Tuesday that Israel regrets the casualties but said "the sole responsibility" for the violent incident lies with activists who have "chosen violence and confrontation."

Israel said that 600 activists in the flotilla were transported to Beer Sheva prison in southern Israel.
Activists directly involved in violence against Israeli soldiers will be charged accordingly, said an Israeli foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Forty-five activists agreed to identify themselves to Israeli authorities and are citizens of the following countries: Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom. They have now either left Israel or are on their way out of the country, an Israeli official said.
Those who remain detained are ones who have refused to identify themselves to Israeli immigration authorities, an Israeli Prison Authority spokesman told CNN. None have been placed under arrest, he said.

Among the ones who have refused to give their names are many foreigners, a police spokesman said.
The process involved in deporting these latter protesters is more complicated because it requires the involvement of foreign diplomats, police said.
Citizens of Arab countries were being prepared for release, two diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
All Arab citizens besides Egyptians will be released from Beer Sheva and moved to the Jordanian border for deportation Tuesday evening, an Arab and an Israeli source said. Egyptian nationals will be transferred elsewhere, but it's unclear when. Israel shares a border with Egypt.

The attack sparked protests in several countries and brought condemnation worldwide.
The U.N. Security Council called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent" investigation into Monday's raid by Israel.
"The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza," the 15-member council said in a statement.
"The council in this context condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and expresses condolences to the families," it said.
The ships were carrying more than 10,000 tons of aid and 600 passengers from more than 20 countries, according to the Free Gaza Movement.

About 1,000 people from an Islamic hard-line group rallied peacefully in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday to protest the Israeli action. Rallies were planned as well in New York and Chicago, Illinois.
Despite strong condemnation of the deadly attack, especially from Turkey, the delivery of four Israeli drones to Turkey will not be interrupted, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said on Tuesday.
"We expect the remaining Herons to be delivered in June or July," Gonul said.
Some of the first accounts emerged Tuesday from eyewitnesses who were aboard several boats stormed by Israeli forces as they approached Gaza the day before.
Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, was on board the Miva Marmara(sic), the ship that was the scene of the confrontation between activists and Israeli soldiers. The Israeli Navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters, Zoabi said during a news conference in Nazareth, Israel. She said passengers on board the ship were unarmed.
Israel has said its forces found several weapons among the passengers on the Miva Marmara. Israel also has said that its forces started shooting after passengers on the Miva Marmara assaulted them.
Zoabi said the military operation lasted about an hour and that she saw five dead bodies in that time.
Israel said the goods that the convoy was carrying were being sent to their intended destination in Gaza. Palestinian officials confirmed that five trucks were allowed into Gaza, carrying wheelchairs.
President Barack Obama expressed "deep regret" at the deaths and "also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible," the White House said Monday.
That did not impress Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, who called the U.S. response "sort of weak."
"Israel should not get away with this," Tan said.

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Tags: gaza, israel
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