Israeli Commandos Kill as Many as 10-16 Aid Activists

....wound over 50 as they Board, Capture Gaza Aid Flotilla

Posted on May 31, 2010 by Juan Cole

Wire services are reporting that Israeli commandos killed as many as 16 peace activists and wounded over 50 others as they boarded and commandeered the six ships of the Gaza aid flotilla. Among the ships boarded, on which Israeli troops killed aid activists, was a Turkish vessel, the Marmara, on which there were casualties.

Early on Monday, some 300 Turkish protesters attempted to storm the Israeli consulate but were turned back by security forces. Through Monday, larger and larger crowds gathered to protest the attack on the flotilla. Some news sources were speaking of tens of thousands at rallies in Istanbul, with smaller numbers demonstrating before the Israeli embassy in the capital, Ankara, and in front of the US consulate in Adana.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry angrily condemned Israeli “inhumane practices” and warned that the attack on the Marmara may well have “irreparable consequences” on Turkish-Israeli relations. Turkey had long been one of Israel’s few friends in the Middle East, but since 2002 the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has been critical of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian West Bank.

It is being alleged by members of Free Gaza that the aid ships were boarded in international waters and that Israel contravened the UN international convention on freedom of navigation on the high seas. Although the Israeli press refers to the waters off Gaza as “Israeli territorial waters,” in fact Israel has no legal claim to the Gaza coast. It is the Occupying power in Gaza since 1967, but is in severe contravention of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations.

There are two possible reasons for the violence. One is that the Israeli troops boarding the vessels met some sort of resistance and over-reacted. Aid volunteers are unlikely, however, to have posed much real challenge to trained special forces operatives.

The other possible reason is that the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman gave a green light to the commandos to respond with excessive force. That is, the deaths and woundings may have been a brutally frank warning to any future Gaza aid activists that they are taking their lives in their hands if they plan any more flotillas to help the Palestinians. The Israeli far right may have felt that there was otherwise a danger that in a few months there would be an even bigger flotilla and that eventually the blockade of Gaza would be broken.

Although we outsiders would welcome this development because we are concerned about the health and well-being of Palestinian children under blockade, the Israeli Right views all Gazans as terrorists and sees besieging them as the only way to safeguard Israelis from attack. The Israeli Right is being paranoid and inhumane in this belief. There is no reason to think that denying Palestinians enough food or medical supplies or concrete will actually deter the small number directly involved in violence.

It is worth noting on Memorial Day that the Israeli attack deeply complicates the task of the US military in the region. It is a propaganda boon for Sunni extremists and Shiite activists such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It undermines the authority of the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, which have US-brokered peace treaties with Israel, treaties that are deeply unpopular with ordinary people in both countries. That some demonstrations are being held in front of US consulates and not just Israeli ones tells us who will get the blame for Netanyahu’s machismo.

The vessels were bringing over 600 protesters of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its collective punishment of its people in contravention of international law, along with 10,000 pounds of aid.

Aljazeera English has video (see link):

As I noted early last week, the World Health Organization vigorously contests Israeli officials’ protestations that their siege of Gaza lets through enough food and materiel. In fact, there is widespread unemployment, poverty, lack of medicine and medical equipment, and hunger in Gaza, and 10 percent of residents (a majority of them children) are physically stunted from malnutrition.

The deposed prime minister of the Palestine Authority, elected in 2006 but deposed in the West Bank by a joint US/ Israeli/ PLO coup in 2007, is Ismail Haniyeh. He is now a leader of the Hamas Party that controls Gaza. He gave a speech carried by Aljazeera in which he ridiculed the idea of good faith peace negotiations with Israel under the shadow of what he called such ongoing atrocities and condemned Palestine Authority Mahmoud Abbas for agreeing to participate in proximity talks with Israel. He also called on the UN Security Council to meet on the crisis.

An organization of Palestinian-Israelis within Israel called for a general strike, according to Aljazeera Arabic.

I received the following account of the beginnings of the confrontation by email:

‘ (Cyprus, May 31, 2010) At 11:00 pm [on Sunday] Cyprus time and in international waters off the coast of Israel, the boats were contacted by the Israeli navy. “Who are you and where are you going?” Our reply was that we were part of a flotilla and we were going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies.

On the radar, the boats could see three Israeli war ships shadowing us, and 15 minutes later, a silent aircraft hovered over the flotilla. One of our Hebrew speakers had found Israel’s strategy and posted it to us. It stated, “You will be boarded by highly trained, very efficient and very SILENT commandos. They will use silent inflatable boats to get to our boats and both try to board our boats directly from the inflatables and by dropping divers into the water to climb onto the boats,” so people were preparing for them to come up and over the sides of the ships.

Our SPOT locator has sent out several HELP messages at

Lubna Marsawa, Free Gaza’s organizer on the Turkish passenger boat said in outrage, “Very few times in history has a flotilla delivering humanitarian goods been welcomed by military war ships.”

This is a call to the world from the people on the boats. “We are a civilian people doing what our governments have refused to do, challenge Israel’s right to collectively punish 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza by blockading their right to their own sea. This flotilla is bringing construction and educational supplies the people of Gaza and are being met by Israeli warships.”

Contact: Huwaida Arraf on board the Challenger 0088 216 5207 2093 Ewa Jasciewica on board the Challenger 0088 163 184 7926 Greta Berlin 00 357 99 18 72 75 Mary Hughes 00 357 96 38 38 09 ‘

 Reproduced by permission.

Tags: (all tags)



There are five diaries on the Daily Kos rec list about this incident.

But here is a frontpage review at Booman Tribune:

Here's how Haaretz tells it:

The left-wing activists on board a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip tried to lynch the Israel Navy commandos who stormed their Turkish-flagged ship early Monday, Israel Defense Forces sources told Haaretz.

The commandos, who intercepted the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara after it ignored orders to turn back, said they encountered violent resistance from activists armed with sticks and knives. According to the soldiers, the activists threw one of their comrades from the upper deck to the lower after they boarded.

Activists attacked a commando with iron bars as he descended onto the ship from a helicopter, the army said. The IDF said its rules of engagement allowed troops to open fire in what it called a "life-threatening situation".

The soldiers said they were forced to open fire after the activists struck one of their comrades in the head and trampled on him. A senior field commander ordered the soldiers then to respond with fire, a decision which the commandos said received full backing the military echelon.

At least 10 people were killed and several more wounded after the Israel Navy troops opened fire on the six-ship flotilla. Unofficial reports put the death toll at between 14 and 20.

I particularly enjoy the story about the peace activists throwing soldiers off the upper decks. That's very creative. Of course, the entire point of this flotilla is to engage in non-violent direct action, so there is no way in hell that the activists used knives or iron bars or made any other violent moves. The Israelis just slaughtered them.

Audrey Bomse, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement, which is behind the convoy, told the BBC Israel's actions were disproportionate.

"We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn't get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance."

She said there was "absolutely no evidence of live fire".

This is one of the stupidest things that Israel has ever done, and that is saying something.


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 11:57AM | 0 recs
RE: There are five diaries on the Daily Kos rec list about this incident.

Of course, the entire point of this flotilla is to engage in non-violent direct action, so there is no way in hell that the activists used knives or iron bars or made any other violent moves.

Of course!  You know, you can have your own ideology, but not your own facts.

by Steve M 2010-05-31 02:23PM | 3 recs
Have to disagree

Not with your contention, of course...noone is allowed their own set of facts.


But I have to disagree with your suggestion there.  While it is still too early to know for sure (specially with most of the activists being held incommunicado by Israel), I would be stunned if this was anything more than a non violent direct action.  This is based on 2 pieces of news

(a) The Turks are claiming that they thoroughly vetted all the ships for guns.

(b) There is one case of a woman who went there with her 1 year old baby (and stayed in her cabin during the gunfire).


And of course, all this happened in international waters!


by Ravi Verma 2010-06-01 08:27AM | 0 recs
RE: Have to disagree

The videos and pictures of people holding knives and iron bars are pretty indisputable.  Unfortunately, in a situation where all the sympathy ought to be on the non-Israeli side, some partisans are going over the top with their claims ("it was a pure massacre!" "the Israelis started killing people before they even boarded the ship!") which only serve to make it look like another he said, she said situation involving Israel.

This is a situation where the actual facts are more than sufficient than to paint a sympathetic story, and there is no reason for anyone to go further other than a knee-jerk instinct to propagandize.  It only helps the cause of the right-wingers when people tell easily refuted lies.

by Steve M 2010-06-01 09:50AM | 2 recs
Video of the attack still available on Youtube.
by MainStreet 2010-05-31 12:06PM | 1 recs
Video of the attack still available on Youtube.
by MainStreet 2010-05-31 12:07PM | 0 recs
Video of the attack still available on Youtube.
Sorry HMTL is just not working. Here is the Youtube site for this video:
by MainStreet 2010-05-31 12:08PM | 0 recs
In the end, we have to ask: what was the US participation in this massacre?

We all know, don't we, that the US, we, underwrote, bought and paid for, the Gaza massacre of December 2008.

Anyone know how we contributed financially to the present massacre on the Turkish IHH humanitarian aid ship, the Mavi Maramara?

by MainStreet 2010-05-31 12:31PM | 0 recs
Announcement from Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

EMERGENCY-Take Action: Israel Attacks Gaza Humanitarian Aid Flotilla

May 31, 2010

In an international act of piracy and murder in international waters, the Israeli navy intercepted, boarded, and opened fire on humanitarian activists on a flotilla of ships attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip.

According to news reports, Israeli commandos killed as many as 19 humanitarian activists on board one ship, and have abducted all 700 passengers on board the six boats composing the flotilla who are in the process of being sent against their will to Israel for arrest and/or deportation.

The reaction of the Obama Administration to Israel's attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla, which included U.S. citizens, has been tepid.  A White House spokesperson stated that he "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained."

Of course, this statement completely ignores U.S. complicity in arming Israel and enabling its human rights abuses.  In July 2008, the United States signed a contract worth $1.9 billion to transfer the latest-generation of naval combat vessels to Israel at U.S. taxpayer expense.  Currently, Congress is in the process of appropriating a record $3.2 billion in military aid to Israel this budget year.

Events are moving quickly.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently canceled his meeting tomorrow at the White House to return to Israel.  Later today, the UN Security Council is set to address Israel's attack on the humanitarian flotilla.  For the latest news from the flotilla, please click here.  

by MainStreet 2010-05-31 12:59PM | 0 recs
More from the Institute for Middle East Understanding.


WHAT: Press Briefing

Israel's Attack on Humanitarian Aid Flotilla Bound for Gaza: Join legal expert, flotilla organizer and former aid boat passenger for discussion

Israel's attack in international waters on a humanitarian flotilla bound for the besieged Gaza Strip has left at least 14 people dead and dozens wounded. Among the flotilla passengers are former American diplomats and former U.S. military personnel, including Ambassador Edward Peck who served thirty-two-years in the U.S. Foreign Service, retired U.S. Army colonel and retired State Department official Ann Wright, and U.S. Navy veteran Joe Meadors who survived the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty. Israel's actions have sparked massive international protests and an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 1 at 11:30 AM EST

WHO: Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and key flotilla organizer. Mr. Shapiro was a passenger on a previous aid boat that was violently seized by Israeli forces.

Diana Buttu, an attorney, former legal advisor to Palestinian negotiators and a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

NOTE: If flotilla passengers have been released from Israeli custody, they will be included on this call as well.

LISTEN live at or by calling (347) 989-8355

QUESTIONS may be posed live via telephone, by pressing 1 during the call to be placed in the queue, or via Twitter by including @IMEUDOTNET in your tweet with your question.

If you miss the call, the discussion will be archived at the link above or you can find it by visiting the IMEU at

CONTACT: Ismail Khalidi, (646) 824-7982 or


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 01:02PM | 0 recs
UN Security Council to meet on Israeli attack.
Israel flotilla action sparks diplomatic furor


Security Council to meet after raid in international waters kills 10 activists

And we wait to see just what Obama's response will be, generally and in the Security Council, should it choose to issue a condemnation. With Obama sucking up to Netanyahu (AIPAC) recently, this is not an easy call.


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 01:22PM | 0 recs
Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives' Statement on Killings on the High Seas:
This message comes from Rabbi Michael Lerner. But there's no need to look for who is responsible. FM Lieberman indicated earlier that there would be violence. And coming from a former nighclub bouncer, I guess he knew what he was talking about. And so did Netanyahu, if we stop pretending.
We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some  of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid. We ask all people of peace to dedicate at least fifteen minutes today (Memorial day in the US)  to silent memorial for those peace activists who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend),  and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence). We invite all peace-loving people to attend a public memorial for those who died in this assault in Lafayette Park opposite the White House on Sunday, June 13, at 11 a.m-2 p.m., sponsored by Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and many other groups, and which will include a larger consideration of U.S. policies. Memorial prayers and prayers for healing will be said at 1 p.m. We call upon Israel to conduct an objective, credible investigation to determine all the levels of responsibility for this criminal act, and to punish those from the top of the government down through the IDF who were responsible. If the past is any guide to the present moment, the Israel hasbara (public relations 'explanation" operation) will now be working full time to put the blame on the people who sought to bring aid to Gaza, claiming that they were the violent ones and maybe even claiming that they were bringing military equipment or something of the sort.. Yet there was no need for any of this to have happened. Israel could have waited for the boats to arrive at shore and then sent military to search what was being brought to Gaza to ensure that it was in fact humanitarian aid. Moreover, as the Israeii peace movement Gush Shalom pointed out today, the core of the issue remains israel's attempt to starve and punish the entire population of Gaza for the activities of Hamas.
by MainStreet 2010-05-31 02:11PM | 0 recs
too bad these "peace" activists used weapons against them first

Islamic fanaticism.

by Lakrosse 2010-05-31 03:14PM | 1 recs
RE: too bad these "peace" activists used weapons against them first

I can't for the life of me understand this response. Will you please clarify, and define what you mean by "Islamic fanaticism" in this context?


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 03:17PM | 0 recs
RE: too bad these "peace" activists used weapons against them first! THAT is what I mean!

by Lakrosse 2010-05-31 03:18PM | 1 recs
RE: My country right or wrong, is it?

Picked this up from another site, from Modoweiss:

Israeli version of events doesn’t pass laugh test

Moshe Yaroni dissects the Israeli response:

Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:

During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.

I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.

We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”

Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.

No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970. That horrific tragedy, like this one, was the result of a government using ridiculously disproportionate force against civil disobedience.

But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here?

So let's laugh. 16 dead and 50 wounded. Two Israeli invaders allegedly wounded. By what?


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 04:21PM | 0 recs
From Troutfishing's diary on Daily Kos:

"The Israeli IDF claims that as its commandos boarded the lead ship of the so-called Freedom Flotilla, carrying desperately-needed supplies for residents of the Gaza Strip, "demonstrators" on the Mavi Marmara, "attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs". But the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the flotilla, claims that "Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep."

As the liberal-center Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz characterized it, the IDF attack on the Mavi Marmara was purely defensive: "The Israel Defense Forces said its troops were to forced to react after they came under fire from the activists while intercepting the convoy." Meanwhile, some liberal American websites are describing the carnage as a "massacre."

As Greta Berlin, one of the leaders of the Free Gaza Movement told the New York Times, the Israeli Defense Force account of the incident was "a lie," stressing the absurdity of the claim that civilians on the Mavi Marmara would have been "waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might."

And a massacre it was, Israeli spin notwithstanding. Turkey reported that its navy will be escorting future aid convoys to Gaza.


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 05:31PM | 0 recs
by MainStreet 2010-05-31 05:32PM | 0 recs
Here's the official US response

The WH has "expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded"

The State Department: "We support expanding the flow of goods to the people of Gaza. But this must be done in a spirit of cooperation, not confrontation."

The US to UN: As I stated in the Chamber in December 2008, when we were confronted by a similar situation, mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by member states and groups that want to do so. These non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza.  Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances. . . . We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and the work of nongovernmental organizations complicates efforts in Gaza. Its continued arms smuggling and commitment to terrorism undermines security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

For further details:

by tarheel74 2010-05-31 05:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Here's the official US response

Nothing has changed: Obama and the State Department are still carrying water for Israel, a reversion to Bush II diplomacy. It is also really disgusting to see one's own government essentially condone the massacre and wounding of peace activists.

This response reiterates the US view that Israel is exceptional, can commit piracy in international waters, may kill and maim, and may continue to allow only insufficient levels of aid into Gaza. Israel retains its victim state, and its red herring, Hamas, while it proceeds with its colonization of the Palestinian territories.


by MainStreet 2010-05-31 06:59PM | 1 recs
RE: Here's the official US response

"Nothing has changed"

Good, you are finally catching on.

by tarheel74 2010-05-31 07:26PM | 0 recs
RE: Here's the official US response

Yeap. But who expected otherwise. It is just that it must be said again and again.

Notice the repetition of the "terrorism" theme. Been going on since 9/11 and is at the center of Israeli propaganda, which of course is supported by the State Department.

How nice!

by MainStreet 2010-05-31 08:28PM | 0 recs
Oh ignore tarheel

just an angry PUMA who shrilled for Israel two years ago when it was conveinent (i.e. when people were criticizing Hillary for being too pro-Israel) now consistently looking for ways to attack the administration cause she's still angry she lost.

tarheel has no interest in the subject, just attacking, that's all. She thinks we all forget.

by DTOzone 2010-05-31 10:25PM | 0 recs
RE: Here's the official US response

And, of course, the siege of Gaza may continue as before, the very thing which prompted the humanitarian flotilla in the first place. And all of this appears to stem from a fair and honest democratic election.

Just as Washington played down even justified the massacre of 1,400 Gazan Palestinians, today it does the same for the murder of 9 or 16, whatever it is, peace activists.

by MainStreet 2010-05-31 07:06PM | 0 recs
you should all see this:

this tells the story best

by Lakrosse 2010-06-06 05:01AM | 0 recs


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