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Israel boards Gaza-bound ships, 15 dead - reports PDF Print E-mail
May 31, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Toronto Star
May 31, 2010

JERUSALEM—About 15 people were killed on Monday when the Israeli navy intercepted a convoy of aid ships that activists were trying to sail to the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Channel 10 private television network said.

Earlier, a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement which organized the six-ship flotilla said at least two were killed.

Casualties could hurt Israel’s international image and diplomatic relations, especially its long-time regional Muslim ally Turkey, whose flag some of the aid ships were flying.

Israel has said it was absolutely determined to maintain its blockade of the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory of 1.5 million. It has previously halted such activist ships, although others have reached Gaza before.

Amid Israeli military censorship and a refusal of Israeli officials to comment on what appeared to be a continuing operation three hours after dawn broke over the Mediterranean, Channel 10 made clear it was not citing foreign sources.

After initially reporting that at least 10 people were dead, it later said the death toll was between 14 and 16. It said commandos who had boarded the convoy were still conducting searches and encountering what it called violent resistance.

“Two people have been killed on board the Turkish boat and 30 or more were wounded,” said Mary Hughes Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, which was behind the convoy.

“As far as we know IDF (Israeli military) commandos descended on the boat from helicopters and took it over.”

The convoy set off in international waters off Cyprus on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip and warnings that it would be intercepted.

The flotilla was organized by pro-Palestinian groups and a Turkish human rights organization. Turkey had urged Israel to allow it safe passage and said the 10,000 tonnes of aid the convoy was carrying was humanitarian.

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A Statement to the Press from the Free Gaza Movement
Forty-six international human rights workers are now sailing to Gaza through international waters with one overriding goal: to break the Israeli siege that Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza.  Any action designed to harm civilians constitutes collective punishment (in the Palestinians’ case, for voting the “wrong” way) and is both illegal under international law and profoundly immoral.  Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel’s actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world.
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