Israeli commandos massacre “unarmed” peace activists in international waters

French Jaubert unit demonstrate boarding techniques

According to the Daily Telegraph, a flotilla of ships containing peace activists taking humanitarian aid set off from the TRNC bound for the blockaded Gaza only to be boarded by Israeli commandos in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast. Fighting broke out between the activists and masked Israeli troops and according to  Greta Berlin, a spokesman for the flotilla, ten people had been killed and dozens wounded. She accuses Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. An Israeli radio station confirmed that between 14 and 16 were dead.

“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone? “We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”

In Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was summoned by the foreign ministry in Ankara. The Israeli consulate in Istanbul has come under attack.

A single Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio, but then added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.

Israeli military sources said four of its men had been hurt, one had been stabbed. They also said that they had been shot at but no soldier has been reported as being shot.

“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” a news website quoted them as saying.

The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from the TRNC. Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, carrying 600 activists from around the world. Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976, was on board. The flotilla came under immediate surveillance and two Israeli navy vessels followed it in international waters. The flotilla which had been warned it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to prevent a confrontation until daylight so that the expected Israeli attack could be more clearly filmed.

The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish TV show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets hitting commandos with sticks. A woman wearing hijab was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood. The Israeli army said the activists defended themselves with axes and knives.

The flotilla was carrying food and building supplies and at least two of the boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded. Activists said two of the boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.

On first hearing this news my first reaction was that the Israelis have acted like Somali pirates in international waters. Like those pirates they will probably go unchallenged. The only worry is that international reaction to the massacre will weaken resolve against Iran who will then continue with their nuclear ambitions until Israel decides to unilaterally deal with them in a similar fashion. The Middle East just got more dangerous, and in the name of peace.

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