Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Flotilla organizer Adam Shapiro: “We expected to be stopped but not shot at”

Everybody's worst fear has come true: the Israeli Navy has attacked early Monday morning one of the eight ships headed to Gaza from the main European ports and loaded with humanitarian aid. The whole world is shocked.

After being stopped for a day in Cyprus port, the Freedom Flotilla made its way to Gaza Sunday morning, in the late evening satellite communication networks were cut off and journalists, European MPs and flotilla passengers were unable to establish contacts with families, friends and media newsrooms.

According to AlJazeera, the death toll of last night's Israeli attack is 19, plus an indefinite number of injured still in critical conditions.

Over the phone, Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers of Freedom Flotilla, is visibly upset: “We expected Israel would have tried to stop us, we did talk about this, but we thought the chances they would use such violence were very little,” he said. “We were sure Israel was going to stop us, this is why we wanted to show the world what the siege on Gaza is all about.”

The Israeli government has said they were attacked by the peace activists. “Israel always says they are attacked first,” retorted Adam Shapiro. “However, this time they can't really, as it's all on tape: the Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck of the ship and nobody among the activists had anything in their hands.”

“We lost communication with the members of the Flotilla during the night and we couldn't manage to get in touch. Now we know that they were brought to Haifa and Ashdod port where the Israeli Army had prisons ready for the activists,” said Shapiro. “We are not going to let this go, we are following this up carefully in order to make sure all activists are released and taken care of” he concluded.

According to the released activists, Israeli soldiers have started shooting before boarding on the ship.

Israel has been heavily condemned over the command raid against the aid convoy.

On the day after the attack, demonstrations all over the world are taking place in solidarity with the activists of the Flotilla: London protesters gathered in Downing Street, US citizens are taking it to the street in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco; Italians are meeting in Piazza Venezia in Rome. Demonstrations are taking place in Gaza, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Istanbul, where citizens have gathered in front of the Israeli consulate to protest against the violent attack on Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon has said to be “shocked” by the attack of the Israeli Navy against the aid convoy; Navy Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights is “shocked by reports that humanitarian aid was met with violence reportedly causing death and injury as the boat convoy approached the Gaza coast. The blockade,” she continues “keeps undermining human rights on a daily basis.”

The Arab League has called for an urgent meeting in Cairo on June 1st to gather all its foreign ministers.

Catherine Ashton, high representative of EU foreign policy has called for a full inquiry about the circumstances of the attack against the peaceful flotilla, remarking that “the continued policy of closure of Gaza is unacceptable and the EU demands an immediate opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid.”

Spain's secretary of State for EU affairs has defined the event “unacceptable and very serious” and announced they have summoned Israeli ambassador in Spain in order to launch immediately a thorough investigation.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has declared that “Italy deplores the loss of civilian life in Israel's raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza. Israel must provide the international community with an explanation.”

Greece, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland have summoned the respective Israeli ambassadors and the EU has asked the Israeli government to launch an investigation on what happened. Turkey has announced the attack might have “irreparable consequences” on their relations and called for a meeting of the UN Security Council.

Also Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has strongly condemned the attack, defining it: “an inhuman Zionist regime action against Gazans”.

The consulates of those identified dead have been contacted, and activists are currently held by the Zionist forces. Turkey foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has underlined that “no country is superior than international laws” and that “the Turkish citizens injured must be able to go back to Turkey without any condition.”

Despite a mild response of US president Obama, the rest of the world is officially calling for a tough response to what has happened in international waters while aid ships were approaching Gaza shores. Global civil society is bent on not forgetting this umpteenth show of arrogance and disrespect towards international laws coming from the Israeli government, and is waiting to see Israel held accountable for its crimes.

In the meantime, the ship MV Rachel Corrie, carrying 1,200 tons of aid, 15 activists, including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former Assistant UN Secretary-General Denis Halliday, set off from Malta and is on its way to Gaza. Israel has already threatened to stop them. Needless to say, the eyes of the whole world are on them.

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