Four Israeli soldiers were wounded in this morning’s operation against the Gaza flotilla. Ten activists reportedly were killed in the violent confrontation. Exactly the kind of escalation many of us predicted after the Rachel Corrie tragedy in 2003, when the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) sent Corrie into a military zone and she suffered the consequences.
I was not surprised to discover that one of the ISM founders, Huwaida Arraf, is now a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement aboard one of the ships. Yesterday, Arraf told the New York Times: “We communicated to them clearly that we are unarmed civilians. We asked them not to use violence.”
First IDF official reports from this morning’s “humanitarian flotilla” attempting to reach Gaza give a chilling picture of ongoing pro-terrorist activities against Israel.
As the six vessels sailed from Turkey via Cyprus with 700 people aboard, Israeli diplomatic efforts to avoid a confrontation continued into the night. All were rebuffed. As the boats approached Israel, further warnings were given to the captains and those on board–these were relayed in English and played repeatedly on Israeli radio this morning. The Israel navy spokesman stated clearly: Israel welcomes humanitarian aid. Gaza waters are closed to all sea traffic. You are invited to land in Israel, deliver the material that will then be sent through the land crossings with your supervision, and then you may return to your countries on the vessels you arrived in.
The response was clear and immediate: “Negative, negative,” replied the captain of the Marmara.
At that point, Israeli navy commandos boarded the ships and encountered violent resistance. Passengers were armed with knives, bats and metal pipes. Israeli commandos tried to used non-lethal measures to disperse the crowd. Activists succeeded in stealing the weapon from one of the IDF’s soldiers and reportedly opened fire, leading to an escalation in violence. “It was like a well-planned lynch,” one IDF officer said. “These people were anything but peace activists.”
Despite all that, the IDF said that the ships would be taken to the Ashdod Port where the cargo will be inspected and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land crossings. Israeli Navy commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom was commanding over the operation from sea.
This morning, efforts are still underway to bring the flotilla under control and into Israeli ports to deal with the “humanitarian activists.”