Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli Navy, deaths reported

The Free Gaza Movement’s Freedom Flotilla was attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters late last night. There are varying reports on the tragic aftermath. The New York Times is reporting (by way of the Israeli Trade Minister) between 14 and 16 killed, as well as 30 more injured. Free Gaza, however, just released a statement saying two were killed and 31 injured. Here is how they described the horrifying action:

Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck. They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep… Streaming video shows the Israeli soldiers shooting at civilians, and our last SPOT beacon said, “HELP, we are being contacted by the Israelis.”

We know nothing about the other five boats. Israel says they are taking over the boats.

It’s clearly too soon to predict anything, but a moment has most certainly been created. Israel has exposed its willingness to break international law and fire upon unarmed civilians in a much more dramatic and potentially costly fashion than perhaps ever before. It’s not just Palestinians this time, but a group far more difficult to sweep under the carpet:  international activists, the likes of which include a Nobel Laureate and an 85 year old Holocaust survivor. Already, the story is the lead on most mainstream media websites.

Meanwhile, Israel is trying to justify its use of deadly force, saying its soldiers saw weapons on board the ship. But according to Free Gaza, there is video evidence that shows otherwise. Israel knows that if the truth sticks, the Palestinian rights movement will receive a strong shot in the arm. Already, protests have begun in Turkey, where, according to Al Jazeera:

Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke. The protesters shouted “Damn Israel” as police blocked them.

Turkey is also reported to have summoned the Israeli ambassador to lodge a protest.

“(The interception on the convoy) is unacceptable … Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

As this moment unfolds, it is important that the memory of the nonviolent activists killed yesterday be honored with a commitment to nonviolence by all Palestinian rights activists. It is the only way any good will come from this tragedy.