Turkey: 2 dead in Israeli attack on Gaza air ships
TIA GOLDENBERGAssociated Press
Sunday, May 30, 2010, 11:08:35 PM PDT
OFF THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST—Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, setting off fierce battles in which at least two people were killed and dozens were wounded, according to the Turkish government.
There were conflicting accounts of what happened.
The al-Jazeera satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain. Turkey's NTV channel also reported an Israeli takeover in which gunfire was used.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, citing "preliminary information," said at least two people were killed and more than 30 wounded. NTV, which had a reporter on board one of the ships, also said two were killed.
But Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said activists attacked the Israeli forces with knives and iron rods as they boarded the boats.
They said an unspecified number of activists and 15 Israeli troops were among the wounded.
"The people on the boats were very, very violent toward the soldiers," said Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich.
NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats.
A Turkish website showed video of pandemonium on board one of the ships, with activists in orange life jackets running around as some tried to help an activist apparently unconscious on the deck. The site also showed video of an Israeli helicopter flying overhead and Israeli warships nearby.
"These savages are killing people here, please help," a Turkish television reporter said.
The al-Jazeera broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"
There were no details on the identities of the casualties, or on the conditions of some of the more prominent people on board, including a Nobel peace laureate and an elderly Holocaust survivor.
Satellite phones on board the ships were turned off, and communication with a small group of reporters embedded with the Israeli military was blocked.
In Turkey, which had unofficially supported the aid mission, news of the attack sparked violent protests.
Police blocked dozens of stone-throwing protesters who tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The CNN-Turk and NTV televisions showed dozens of angry protesters scuffling with Turkish police and shouting, "Damn Israel."
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli raid and said it was summoning the Israeli ambassador for an "urgent explanation." It says Israel violated international law and will suffer consequences.
The Israeli military denied its forces attacked the boats, saying soldiers were under orders only to use fire if their lives were in danger.
Some 700 pro-Palestinian activists were on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85.
The flotilla, which includes three cargo ships and three passenger ships, is trying to draw attention to Israel's blockade of Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians. The boats are carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials. The activists said they also were carrying hundreds of electric-powered wheelchairs, prefabricated homes and water purifiers.
The head of the Gaza Hamas government, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the "brutal" Israeli attack.
"We call on the secretary-general of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza," Haniyeh told The Associated Press.
The reports came just after daybreak, with the flotilla still well away from the Gaza shore. Israel had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza.
The violent takeover threatened to deal yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its three-year-old blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
The flotilla began the journey from international waters off the coast of the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Sunday afternoon after two days of delays.
After nightfall Sunday, three Israeli navy missile boats left their base in Haifa, steaming out to sea to confront the ships. Two hours later, Israel Radio broadcast a recording of one of the missile boats warning the flotilla not to approach Gaza.
"If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade," the radio message continued.
This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement, an international group of pro-Palestinian activists, has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.
Israel has let ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers in January 2009.
The latest flotilla was the largest to date.
Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade on Gaza after Hamas militants violently seized control of the seaside territory in June 2007.
Israel says the measures are needed to prevent Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets at Israel, from building up its arsenal. But U.N. officials and international aid groups say the blockade has been counterproductive, failing to weaken the Islamic militant group while devastating the local economy.
Israel rejects claims of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying it allows more than enough food and medicine into the territory. The Israelis also point to the bustling smuggling industry along Gaza's southern border with Egypt, which has managed to bring consumer goods, gasoline and livestock into the seaside strip.
Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara.
Article from: http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_15196974Turkey: 2 killed, 30 wounded in Israeli raidAssociated Press
Sunday, May 30, 2010
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey's Foreign Ministry says at least 2 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in an Israeli raid on an aid ship in the Mediterranean.
The ministry condemned Monday's raid on the ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists, called it unacceptable and demanded an "urgent explanation" from Israel. It says Israel violated international laws and will suffer consequences.
Article from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100531/ap_on_re_eu/eu_turkey_israel