Monday, 31 May 2010

Israel is not lost at sea.. Evidence shows their troops acted in self defence

Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara. The ship
was sent by the Islamist IHH organisation. More
on them below. Also watch the video on the BBC website I've
linked to and decide how 'peaceful' those protesters were?

An awful lot of hysterical bleating (from people like the Hamas loving Greens) is going on about the fiasco that unfolded this morning at sea, when Israeli troops boarded a ship carrying support for a genocidal terrorist movement; Hamas. What I will do is call for balance and clear thinking from all people concerned with the situation. Those people who support Hamas and that of course includes the militant left can go hang. This blog post is aimed at sensible people and hopefully along with the report by the BBC and BICOM we can at least form a balanced assessment of what actually happened.

What I will also say is this. You're a soldier or police officer facing a hostile crowd that outnumbers you and is attacking you with iron bars, knives and you think you hear shots. What do you do? Oh and in the time taken for you to read this a member of your team has been disarmed and shot by their own rifle. I'm a former soldier who has faced hostile crowds. I would open fire in those circumstances and so would any sensible professional. Unless you just want to watch your friends get bludgeoned to death and hope they grant you mercy when they turn on you? Full text from BICOM follows:

BICOM Briefing: Gaza Flotilla Incident
This brief provides currently available information on the Gaza flotilla incident. Updated information will be provided as it becomes available.

Key Points:

Israeli forces stormed a flotilla of activists' boats attempting to break the blockade of Gaza early this morning, resulting in at least 10 deaths among those on board.
Prior to the incident, Israel offered to transfer the aid carried by the protestors to the Gaza Strip via land borders under the activists' observation, after security checks. Whilst committed to facilitating the flow of aid to Gaza, Israel is concerned not allow the Gaza coast to become a corridor for weapons transfers to Hamas.
There has been an angry reaction in particular from Turkey, the Palestinians, and Israeli Arabs. International organizations are demanding explanations from Israel.
Israeli ministers have expressed "sorrow" at the deaths but stressed that the protestors acted violently to the Israeli forces including with live fire. Israel has also highlighted that IHH, the Turkish group involved in the flotilla, is believed to have a history of support for terrorism.
What happened?

Early on Monday 31 May, a flotilla of six activist's boats headed towards the Gaza coast.
They were met by vessels from the Israeli Navy about 60km from the coast, apparently in international waters. The Israeli navy warned them that that Gaza is under naval blockade. The Israeli navy invited the boats to enter the Ashdod port, north of Gaza. Israel offered to transfer the humanitarian aid to Gaza under the observation of the activists, according to Israeli authority regulations. The flotilla continued to try and reach the Gaza coast.
A team of Israeli commandos from the elite naval Shayetet 13 commando unit boarded the protest boats at around 4am from helicopters. It appears that five of the boats were captured without violence, but that on the largest, the Turkish flagged Marmara, Israel soldiers were met with planned, violent resistance, which Israeli officials described as attempts to lynch the soldiers.

The IDF says they were attacked with "live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs". Turkish television footage shows Israeli soldiers landing on the decks of the boats and immediately being set upon by men with sticks and planks. In the ensuing struggle at least ten, and possibly as many as nineteen, activists were killed and ten Israeli soldiers were harmed, four seriously. One soldier was stabbed and two were shot with firearms taken from the soldiers.
Who was on the protest boats and what was their aim?
Some 700 activists are reported to be on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and British activists. The Marmara is reported to be carrying more than 500 people.
The organizations involved in the movement include the ‘Free Gaza Movement' alongside other European NGOs, and the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) movement.
The IHH has been accused of being a militant Islamist movement with a record of supporting terrorism. (For a report on IHH by the Danish Institute for International Studies click here.)
Speaking to BBC World News, a spokeswoman for the flotilla, Audrey Bomse stressed that the primary mission of the flotilla was to make a political statement with regard to the human rights of the Palestinian in Gaza and to "break the siege", as opposed to delivering the aid itself.
The groups involved refused requests from Israeli campaigners last week to deliver packages and letters to Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip without any external contact since 2006.

What is Israel's policy on access to the Gaza Strip?
Israel facilitates the daily passage of around one hundred trucks a day of aid to Gaza through its land border. There are no limits on the quantity of aid, but Israel restricts the types of goods it will allow in, because of the state of conflict that exists between Israel and the Hamas regime in Gaza.
Israel is concerned to avoid any action that will strengthen the Hamas government in Gaza, in the context of the divide between Hamas and the moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. In contrast to Gaza, the West Bank has seen considerable improvement in movement and access in the last two years due to improved cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel insists that all aid entering Gaza be checked to ensure it does not include weaponry. It seeks to maintain the naval blockade in order to prevent the coast of Gaza becoming a corridor for the smuggling of arms to Hamas. Hamas has made considerable efforts to rearm and improve its arsenal with Iranian weapons smuggled under the Gaza-Egypt border.
Egypt, which considers Hamas to present a major threat to its own security, allows almost nothing to pass through its border with Gaza, but large quantities of goods enter the strip through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.
For more details see BICOM Briefing: Israeli policy on access to Gaza update - 27/5/2010.

What has been the reaction in Israel?
In a press conference, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak expressed his "sorrow" at the events, but stressed the responsibility lay with the organisers of the flotilla. He asserted that the Israeli forces involved were well trained, and acted only to defend themselves. He further emphasised that there was a well established procedure to send aid to Gaza and that it was unacceptable to allow the boats to reach Gaza without security checks, which would open up a precedent for a smuggling corridor.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, "Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything it could to avoid this outcome," but stressed, that on the part of the protestors, "Their intent was violence, their methods were violence, and the outcome was violence."
Israeli Arab leaders and parliamentarians have reacted angrily, strongly condemning the Israeli actions, and there have been calls for protests among Israeli Arabs.
Israeli media commentators are raising questions about how this operation was planned and executed. Concerns are being expressed about the impact on Israel's international image and the possible reaction from Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

What has been the international reaction?
Foreign Secretary William Hague said in statement, "I deplore the loss of life during the interception of theGaza Flotilla." He added, "We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations."
There has been a very angry reaction from the government of Turkey, the flag state of the largest ship, who have recalled their ambassador. The Turkish Prime Minister has returned early from an overseas trip. Protestors attempted to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the incident as a "massacre" and has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League.
European Foreign Affairs representative Baroness Ashton has called for an inquiry and for crossings into Gaza to be opened.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency have expressed shock in a statement and sought explanations from Israel.

What will happen now?
The situation at sea is still unclear and Israeli authorities report that the incident is still being brought under control.
Israel has said it will unload and check the aid at the Ashdod port and transfer the aid that is permitted to enter the Gaza Strip via the usual land crossings on the Israel-Gaza border. The protestors will be handled by Israeli immigration authorities.
Another boat of the ‘Free Gaza' movement is heading towards the Gaza Strip and activists have expressed determination to continue their efforts to break the blockade.

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