Eyewitness Accounts of Gaza Convoy Raid What Really Happened on Board the Mavi Marmara

AFP / Free Gaza Movement

Part 2: Preparing for Battle

At 4:02 a.m. morning prayers began, and the men went below deck to worship. A few minutes later, Israeli navy speedboats pulled up alongside the ship. The soldiers threw stun grenades and teargas grenades on deck.

El Sakka, who was standing on the upper deck, tried to take pictures with his digital camera, but he only dared extend his arm over the railing. "The noise on the lower decks was so loud that for a few minutes I didn't even realize that the first helicopter was already clattering just a few meters overhead."

He ran below deck to check on his friend Norman Paech, the former Bundestag member. Men who apparently had experience with teargas pressed pieces of onion into his hands. "'Rub it on your forehead,' they told me, 'it helps!'"

On the main deck, Canadian human rights activist Kevin Neish, 53, observed how the men prepared for battle. Some of them were wearing gas masks, one had "a kind of child's slingshot," while others had pieces of wood and metal pipes, he says. "It looked rather pitiful to me. Some of them had pulled things out of waste bins, wooden crates, batteries. Someone had even fished out a coconut."

Surprising Footage

The only video footage initially released of the military's Operation Sky Winds all came from the Israeli army. They showed soldiers rappelling from helicopters and being beaten down on deck by men armed with pipes and clubs. Towards the end of the week, details emerged from the films confiscated from the activists, including some that even surprised the Israelis. According to the newspaper Yediot Ahronot, one of the tapes shows an "Arab-looking woman" using a stick to keep men from beating up an Israeli soldier. Furthermore "a number of leftist European activists are trying to protect the soldiers."

Pictures that showed how eight Turkish activists and an American were killed had still not been released by the Israeli army by Friday evening. The soldiers shot indiscriminately into the crowd, Turkish activists said after they returned home. They acted in self-defense, said the army.

El Sakka fled to the lower deck when he noticed that live ammunition was being fired. The ship's sick bay was located next to the sleeping quarters. He observed that an increasing number of dead and wounded were being brought down, including three injured soldiers.

'They Should Have Sunk the Ship'

The shooting stopped after an hour, and a message came through the intercom that the ship was now under Israeli command. All passengers, including Sakka and Paech, were tied up and forced to kneel on the bloodstained upper deck. The ordeal lasted for four hours. Paech and two current Left Party members of the Bundestag, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, who were also on board, later filed complaints against persons unknown for unlawful detention and war crimes.

It took 10 hours for the Mavi Marmara to reach the port of Ashdod. Nearly all the activists were put in jail, but then the Israeli government decided to deport them all -- despite violent protests in Israel. "Do you know the only thing that the Israeli army did wrong?" said one demonstrator to an Israeli peace activist. "They should have sunk the ship and killed everyone on board!"


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Norberto_Tyr 06/08/2010
1. Kidnapping and deportation is not a rational procedure to say the least
Lets summarize the facts: 1- the humanitarian vessel was violently boarded in international waters; 2- unarmed humanitarian activists were killed; 3- no Israeli was killed; 4- humanitarian activists where kidnapped and taken into Israel against their will; 5- the humanitarian activists were deported. This kerfuffle does not add-up at all since is clear that deportation is used when someone illegally enters a country or when someone seriously violates the laws of the country in which is residing. In both cases the premise is that the person entered the country by his / her own accord, which in this situation it is obviously not the case. On the other hand there is a sense that Israel's government is working in two different levels or dimensions, one metaphysical and other in accordance to international law but on a mere formal basis and both disjointed or out of synch in a rather strange way. Israel claims to be one more country within the international community but behaves as if they can impose their law and arbitrary point of view to the rest. For instance disregarding other countries sovereignty (Dubai), disregarding the universal principle of jurisdiction (kidnapping people residing in other countries), utilizing mafia style techniques such as counterfeiting passports of friendly nations (Australia, UK and others), and exploiting the ambiguity of the dual citizenship (in my view dual citizenship should be declared illegal) of people belonging the Jewish faith. Israel is not only violating well established and universally accepted laws but it is violating the principles of logic and also mere decency and respect for the truth to the point that assuming rationality on the part of the people currently in government is extremely risky, especially if they are handling illegal nuclear weapons. Norberto
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