Tuesday, Jun 1st, 2010
A member of the Israeli Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, who was on board the Marmara ship when it was ambushed by IDF troops, has told reporters that the intention of the raid was to kill as many on board as they could in order to ward off others from attempting to reach Gaza by sea.
Hanin Zoabi, who currently serves as a member of the Knesset representing the Balad party, made the following comments at a press gathering today:
“It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail, but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future.”
Zoabi added that the international flotilla to Gaza did not have any intention to cause violence:
“Our goal was to break the siege. We had no plans for a confrontation. Israel carried out a provocative military operation. Israel is used to doing as it pleases with the Palestinians. The main problem is not the ship, but the siege.”
Zoabi, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, also told the media that she did not hear any warning from the Israeli commandos before they boarded the ship, an account that conflicts with statements from several Israeli government officials.
“They were dinghies and choppers. At 4:30 am the forces landed quickly. I did not hear any warning from the ships, because noise was coming from the ships and the choppers. Within 10 minutes there were already three bodies. The entire operation took about an hour.” Zoabi said.
Zoabi described gunshots coming from the Israeli boats toward her direction. While she also claimed that from her vantage point there was no resistance from the activists once the commandoes boarded, video footage has revealed that the troops were attacked with poles. However, the evidence suggests that this was after the fact that they had been fired upon, and sustained fatalities, despite raising a white flag.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
“A clear message was being sent to us, for us to know that our lives were in danger. We convened that we were not interested in a confrontation. What we saw was five bodies. There were only civilians and there were no weapons. There was a sense that I may not come out of it alive. Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation.” Zoabi said.
Zoabi’s party published a statement saying, “Those who should be questioned are Barak and Netanyahu, who gave the order for an armed takeover in the middle of the sea. Behind this crime are criminals who should be interrogated.”
As prominent political scientist Norman Finklestein has pointed out, the Israeli government convened and mapped out what actions would be taken against the flotilla weeks ago. Given that heavily armed elite commandos were sent in under cover of darkness and reportedly fired at sleeping civilians according to eyewitnesses, it can only be assumed that the intention of the Israeli government all along was to use force, as Hanin Zoabi claims.
This is backed up by the discovery of an apparent assassination list which had been prepared in advance by the Israelis, showing names and pictures of people on board of the ships to be murdered, who, according to Israel, were “involved in the International humanitarian aid for Gaza”.
Prior to the launch of the Flotilla, it was suggested in the Israeli press that the involvement of pro-Palistinian and Hamas-affiliated figures involved in the convoy, including Zoabi, indicated that the mission was not humanitarian in its nature and was a direct provocation.
The flotilla was also manned by the head of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch Raed Salah and the head of the Arab-Israeli Higher Monitoring Committee Muhammad Zidan, as well as members of the Muslim Brothers activist movement in Britain.
In the wake of what has unfolded, Israeli officials have seized on the presence of these figures to justify the actions of the IDF.
However, while Israel considers these people enemies of the state, it is clear from videos and testimony presented on the websites witnessgaza.com and freegaza.org that the flotilla, which was manned by over 700 activists, intellectuals and political figures from over 40 countries, was entirely peaceful and constituted no physical threat to Israel.
Despite worldwide condemnation, Israeli forces have declared that next time they will use more force.
“We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war,” a top Navy commander told The Jerusalem Post.
“That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war.”
Israeli has also released images of what it says are weapons found aboard the Marmara. They consist of a hammer, a wrench, a spanner, a screwdriver, kitchen knives, wooden and metal poles – all items you would find on board the boat in any situation.
Other items include a slingshot and some rocks and a bottle with tubing and wires that Israel calls an “improvised explosive device” – hardly an impressive arsenal, certainly not something you’d go about attacking a machine gun wielding elite commando unit with.
Another two ships, including The Rachel Corrie, are expected to attempt to enter Israeli waters in the coming days. Activists on board the Corrie are reported to have decided to go ahead with their attempt to break Israel’s blockade.
Because the Corrie is is an Irish-flagged vessel, any attack on it in international waters would be an attack on the government and people of Ireland. Michael Higgins, the foreign affairs spokesman of the Irish Labour Party today called on the Government to demand safe passage for the Corrie.
In a statement, he said some of those on the vessel had contacted him earlier today and had stressed they wanted to avoid conflict and to be allowed unload their cargo to help the residents of the Gaza Strip.
“The Minister for Foreign Affairs . . . must make it clear that any assault on the Rachel Corrie would be regarded as a hostile act against Ireland and a clear breach of international law that could not be ignored by this country,” Mr Higgins said.
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