Up to 16 people have been killed when Israeli naval commandos boarded aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip, meeting resistance from pro-Palestinian activists, Israel’s Channel 10 television said.
The six-ship convoy carrying aid for Palestinians and led by a Turkish vessel with 600 people on board set sail for Gaza from international waters off Cyprus on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the territory.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, where public radio quoted an unnamed Arab journalist aboard a ship as saying the navy intercepted the activists and that shooting was heard.
Vice premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio that Israeli forces would issue a report soon.
“As far as we know IDF (Israeli military) commandos descended on the boat from helicopters and and took it over,” said Mary Hughes Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, which was behind the convoy.
An Israeli religious medical service, ZAKA, said seven people had been admitted to hospital in Haifa, Israel’s main naval base, one of them in a serious condition.
Israeli officials said overnight the navy told the activists by radio to turn back toward Cyprus or head for the Israeli port of Ashdod to unload the 10,000 tonnes of aid, which Israel would then transfer to the Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The convoy set off in international waters off Cyprus on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of Gaza.
The flotilla was organised by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organisation.
Turkey had urged Israel to allow it safe passage and said the 10,000 tonnes of aid was humanitarian.
Israel had said it would prevent the convoy from reaching Gaza.
Egypt and Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took over the territory in 2007.
Israel launched a devastating military offensive in Gaza in December 2008 with the aim of halting daily rocket fire towards its cities.
Most of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza rely on aid, blaming Israel for imposing restrictions on the amount and type of goods it allows into the territory.
The United Nations and Western powers have urged Israel to ease its restrictions to prevent a humanitarian crisis. They have been urging Israel to let in concrete and steel to allow for post-war reconstruction.
Israel denies there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying food, medicine and medical equipment are allowed in regularly.
It says the restrictions are necessary to prevent weapons and materials that could be used to make them from reaching Hamas.
Al-Jazeera TV reported at 12:39 am, ET, on May 31, 2010, that the initial number of the peace activists on board of the Freedom Flotilla, carrying aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, who were killed maybe up to fifteen while injuries reached scores of activists.
Al-Jazeera TV correspondent in Isdood, Walid Al-’Umary, added that this news story was aired by the Israeli TV reporting from Turkish sources. This means that nobody still knows for sure the number of those killed in the attack, whether they were two, ten, or fifteen.
The Israeli occupation soldiers attacked all the ships from the air and boats, they boarded the ships firing at the unarmed peace activists.
They have been rounding them up to take them as prisoners to the Israeli naval base in Isdood, which the Israelis call Ashdod after they dispossessed its Palestinian population in 1948 and evicted them to Gaza as refugees until today.
Israel has said it will prevent the convoy from reaching Hamas-ruled Gaza; Israeli Naval ships await the convoy’s arrival to the area.
uh oh..a memorial day attack..how turkey responds is the key but as i have shown before..the rhetoric is strong..i dont like the looks of this..at all..20 dead so far..
“not sure what to make of this yet..but cutting off israel and engaging syria..that sort of thing will always get a response..but why and what for?”