Last night (U.S. Time), Israel attacked a flotilla that was bound for Gaza. Israel has blockaded Gaza due to the rule of Hamas and terrorist activities. While this blockade is well-known, some groups (mostly humanitarian but many with pro-Palestinian and/or pro-extremist ties) have tried to run the blockade and reach Gaza. Israel and the UN allow humanitarian aid in and offered the flotilla the opportunity to pass the aid on, after a security check. The offer was turned down.
After being warned to turn around/stop, Israeli soldiers boarded the flotilla ships. They were attacked by the people on the ships. According to one Israeli Navy commander, the people on board “came for war”. The soldiers responded, believing their lives were in danger, and ended up killing several (10 – but number still uncertain) on board the ships and wounding others.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Canada, canceled a trip to Washington to meet with Obama on Tuesday in order to return home and deal with the impending international crisis. Obama called Netanyahu today and the two discussed the need to know the facts as soon as possible. European leaders are already using the incident as a call to end the Gaza blockade and instead act against Israel. Obama and Netanyahu plan to reschedule their meeting.
Israel has the right to stop ships and check their contents for security reasons (as do all sovereign countries), nevertheless, extremists are using the opportunity to call for attacks against Israel. To some extent, Turkey is even giving credence to these calls and encouraging some sort of protest against Israel.
"A television grab from Turkish station Cihan shows Navy troops storming the Mavi Marmara" - From Times Online
While it is clear that my views are pro-Israel (which does not mean that I am anti-Palestinian), I try to have a fairly balanced view of situations like this. The mainstream media, including the BBC article linked to above, almost always represent Israel negatively. This is biased and untruthful, yet continues to happen. As such, below are some notes and quotes on the situation, from Stand With Us. Stand With Us is obviously pro-Israel, but I think these notes are obviously true regardless of whether or not one agrees with the situation that is unfolding. Clearly we need more information on what actually happened – and it is unlikely to come from unbiased sources.
• Activists carried out a pre-planned violence, armed with knives and metal bars, each sailor being attacked by a mob of a dozen extremists
• The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.
• The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.
• Israel offered to transfer the aid to Gaza again and again – they refused – and chose confrontation.
• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “Weapons found on board; the organizers intent was violent, their method was violent and the result was, unfortunately violent”
• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “We repeatedly called on the organizers to stop this provocation”
• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “The maritime blockade in Gaza is because of the terrorism of Hamas”
• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: Allowing the illegal flotilla to reach Hamas would have opened a corridor of smuggling of weapons to Gaza and resulting in civilian deaths.
• Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.
• “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers
• Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.
• Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too”; Hamas is responsible for the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis.
• Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.
• Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.
• No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.
• Any police force in the world would respond to aggression; the provocation is the reason for this regrettable outcome.
• Wounded, including violent activists, are receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
Al-Jazeera TV Report from “Freedom Flotilla” Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom.
Israeli Navy addresses a ship in the flotilla and offers it to dock in the Ashdod port:
BBC report shows violent, masked activists on ship:
Read StandWithUs Statement:
Ironically, all of this is unfolding on the United States’ Memorial Day. The flotilla claimed to be pro-freedom, but their preparation for violent attacks and resulting occurrences show that freedom may not have been the main or entire purpose of this group.
My friend offered the following thoughts on Facebook:
Dear Palestinian “Peace Activists,” You don’t approach an area under blockade and NOT expect to be stopped. THOUSANDS of heavy weapons have historically been smuggled into Gaza so don’t blame Israel for wanting to ensure its own security by searching your ship. Moreover, why not just submit to the search and be on your way… No, go ahead and attack Israeli commandos and see how that works out for ya. Morons. That said, its truly sad for so much loss of life…
Syria and Lebanon claim the attack could lead to war. This is not surprising and could be a way to once again delay any sort of peace process.