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June 1, 2010

Concern grows over flotilla missing and prisoners

UK, 2pm, Tuesday 1st June


International Solidarity Movement volunteers today expressed grave concern over the fate of wounded, imprisoned and missing flotilla activists.

The group said, with an information blackout from Israel preventing news of their plight reaching the media, speculation is mounting about the Internationals’ safety.

Theresa MacDermott (Scotland) Ewa Jasiewicz (Britain/Poland) and Caoimhe Butterly (Ireland) along with hundreds of other civilian passengers have not been heard from since before the Israeli attack on Monday morning. (1)

Israel has today refused Free Gaza lawyers permission to make contact with the human Rights defenders.

Sharyn Lock (England), founding member of The FreeGaza Movement and author of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, said today:

“Through my experience volunteering with ambulances in Palestine, I know Israel regularly lets civilians die without allowing medical aid reach them.” (2)

She went on to say:

“It is deplorable that family and friends are being refused contact or information and we can only speculate as to their whereabouts and injuries.”

“We call on the EU member States to fulfil their obligation to protect the safety of human rights defenders. (3)We demand that Israel allows access to the injured and imprisoned immediately.” added Vittorio Arrigoni (Italy) who was himself injured by Israeli gunboats in 2008.

ISMers and former flotilla passengers Eva Bartlett (Canada) and Alberto Arce (Spain)are also waiting to hear from their missing colleagues.

“All of us are nonviolent activists who have personally come under fire from Israeli forces, and several of us have been wounded or detained. It is common for Israeli forces to open fire with live rounds on unarmed civilians, both Palestinian and Internationals.” said Eva, from Gaza. (4)

Human rights defenders in Gaza are attacked on a daily basis. Amongst them are Bianca Zammit (Malta), who was shot while accompanying farming families in Gaza on April 25th, 2010 (5) and Adie Mormech (England),who was kidnapped and imprisoned after the FreeGaza boat The Spirit of Humanity was forcibly boarded by Israel on June 30, 2009.

All the ISMers mentioned in this release are available now for comment.



1. Ewa Jaciezicz is a freelance journalist. She and Caoimhe Butterly have trained as First Responder Medics. Theresa MacDermott is a postal worker.

2. Alongside flotilla passengers Caoimhe and Ewa, Eva Bartlett, Sharyn Lock, Alberto Arce, and Vittorio Arrigoni worked daily with Palestinian medics during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, with Eva and Alberto filming the shooting by an Israeli sniper of medic Hassan as he tried to retrieve a body. The footage taken by Alberto and Mohammed Rujailah became their award-winning film “To Shoot an Elephant” Alongside flotilla passenger Theresa MacDermott in 2008, Vittorio Arrigoni, Eva Bartlett, and Sharyn Lock came under regular fire as they accompanied unarmed Gaza fishermen, who are often shot at not only within three miles of the Gaza shore, but actually on the beach.

3. EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders:

Click to access GuidelinesDefenders.pdf

With related resources here:

Click to access Frontlinehandbook.pdf

4. Bianca Zammit received a gunshot to the thigh when Israeli soldiers fired on farming families, Gaza, 2010. Vittorio Arrigoni required ten stitches after Israeli gunboats attacked the fishing boats he was accompanying, Gaza sea 2008. Caoimhe Butterly recieved a gunshot to the thigh while rescuing Palestinian children, West Bank 2002. Sharyn Lock was shot in the stomach from an Israeli armoured personel carrier while walking backwards with her hands in the air, one of ten internationals injured, West Bank 2002.

5. Bianca says: “Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition at unarmed civilians, farmers and activists without any inhibition. On the day they shot me soldiers were shooting aggressively at the demonstrators. It was clear they had a policy of at least “shooting to injure”. I was filming and documenting when the bullet struck my leg. For me this was a clear message that Israeli soldiers do not hesitate to shoot at internationals
but also that they feel threatened by our work”.


Sharyn Lock (Free Gaza Movement, England) +44 7881651 259 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44 7881651 259 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
ISM London, +44 7913 067 189 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44 7913 067 189 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Vittorio Arrigoni (Italy, based in Gaza) +972 5977 50820 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 5977 50820 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Eva Bartlett (Canada, based in Gaza) +972 5987 10648 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 5987 10648 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Adie Mormech (England, based in Gaza) +972 5977 17696 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 5977 17696 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Bianca Zammit (Malta, based in Gaza) +972 5975 89688 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +972 5975 89688 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Alberto Arce (Spain) +0034 6556 50048

3 dead in Israeli air strike on Gaza

Published today (updated) 01/06/2010 16:45

Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike hits Palestinian smuggling tunnels in Rafah,
in the southern Gaza Strip on 2 May 2009.[ MaanImages/Hatem Omar]
Gaza – Ma’an – Medics in the Gaza Strip confirmed three dead following an Israeli air strike on the northern Strip near the town of Beit Lahiya on Tuesday afternoon.

An Israeli military source said planes were aiming for a “clear target” in the area, and pilots noted “secondary explosions” following the bombing.

The fire is the second, possibly third of the day, with clashes reported in the south with alleged militants, and shots fired toward a 65-year-old woman hitting her in the legs near the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Israeli military representatives said two “infiltrators” were killed, though Palestinian medics said no bodies had been recovered from the area.

The same representatives said they were unaware of any military activity in the region where the elderly woman was killed, saying the fire that injured the woman was not from Israeli forces.

Egypt opens Rafah border

Egypt opens Gaza border following IDF raid on aid flotilla

Egypt opens Rafah crossing amid a storm of international criticism of Israel’s blockade of the enclave, to let Palestinians cross until further notice.

By Reuters

Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, letting Palestinians cross until further notice amid a storm of international criticism of Israel’s blockade of the enclave, officials in Egypt and Gaza said.

The move, urged by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against whom the embargo has been directed, prompted dozens of people to race to the crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, though the gates appeared still to be closed.

It is the only point on Gaza’s borders that is not fully controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas Islamists, who are allied to Egypt’s opposition, seized control of Gaza three years ago.

A permanent opening of the crossing, which lies above a stretch of desert frontier riddled by hundreds of smuggling tunnels, would be a major boost for Hamas and a blow to efforts by Israel and its Western allies to cripple the Islamists.

The Interior Ministry run by Hamas since it seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007 said in a statement: “Rafah crossing is open every day from 9 A.M to 7 P.M.” Since Hamas took over, Egypt has opened the crossing only sporadically and with restrictions.

Egyptian security source told Reuters: “Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter the Strip.

“The border will remain open for an unlimited time,” the source said, letting Palestinians enter and leave Egypt.

Aid convoys, to which Egypt has in the past allowed only limited access, would be allowed to use the crossing, subject to following Cairo’s limitation that only food and medical supplies be transported.

“Hard materials” – apparently including concrete and steel which Gazans want to repair damage from last year’s Israeli offensive – would have to go via Israel, the Egyptian source said. Israel has made clear since it halted a Turkish-backed aid convoy at sea on Monday that it will not ease its embargo.

Unprecedented Editorial in the Guardian

Gaza: From blockade to bloodshed

Nothing has done more to establish Israel’s status as a pariah state among its neighbours than the actions of its armed forces

If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a Nato taskforce would today be heading for the Somali coast. What happened yesterday in international waters off the coast of Gaza was the work of Israeli commandos, not pirates, and no Nato warships will in fact be heading for Israel. Perhaps they should be.

Nothing has done more to establish Israel’s status as a pariah state among its neighbours than the actions of its armed forces. Israel’s navy said it met with “pre-planned violence” when it boarded the ships and opened fire in the middle of the night. Their intention was to conduct a mass arrest, but the responsibility for the bloodshed was entirely theirs. Having placed themselves in a situation where they lost control and provoked a riot, the Israeli navy said they were forced to open fire to avoid being lynched. What did the commandos expect pro-Palestinian activists to do once they boarded the ships – invite them aboard for a cup of tea with the captain on the bridge? One of those shot and severely wounded was a Greek captain, who refused medical aid in Israel and demanded to be flown back to Greece. Presumably he, too, was threatening the lives of Israeli naval commandos.

There was nothing on board those ships that constituted a threat to Israel’s security, so Binyamin Netanyahu’s argument that his troops were acting in self-defence has no validity. They should not have been there in the first place. The convoy was carrying construction materials, electric wheelchairs and water purifiers for Gaza’s people. This was recognised by the Israeli navy, who said in a statement that it had offered to transfer the aid by land to Gaza. Four years into a blockade mounted ostensibly to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the enclave, this claim, too, is utterly specious. Two years of pressure from Washington failed to persuade Israel to let these construction materials in, for the benefit of the 5,000 families still in tents after the ruin wreaked by Operation Cast Lead. If Israel was so obdurate to the entreaties of its ally, why would it now acquiesce in the demands of its enemies? The fact is that Israel has used its blockade not only to prevent Hamas from rearming, but also to impose collective punishment – as a boot which it applied to the Palestinian throat. This pressure on the jugular has the opposite of its intended effect. Defiance has only grown in Gaza, and the Islamic resistance movement is reaping the benefits – as any Fatah man will admit.

In one operation Israel has destroyed whatever hold it had over the international community on Gaza. It is not simply the fury that it has created in Turkey, which will only grow as the bodies of its dead are buried. Egypt too is complicit, because its government has sealed the southern border of the Gaza strip. It has done so amid mounting popular opposition, and as a nervy transfer of power in Cairo is about to take place. The Egyptian government will not welcome the intense embarrassment that Israel has caused it. There were many calls yesterday for the siege to be lifted, notably from Britain’s new foreign secretary William Hague. After what Nick Clegg, his coalition partner wrote in this newspaper about Gaza last year, he could hardly do otherwise. But as Mr Clegg said, it is action, not words, that counts now.

The blockade should end, but that will only be the start of the U-turn which is now required. Closely allied to Gaza’s physical isolation is its political one. The international consensus is also crumbling on isolating Hamas by insisting it recognise Israel before it is allowed to join a national unity government with Fatah. Russia broke the taboo first two week ago when its president, Dmitry Medvedev, met Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader in Damascus, but other countries in Europe are now planning to follow suit. Brick by brick, this policy is coming apart, and in a strange way Israel is helping.

Free Gaza Calls for ‘Open, Independent’ Investigation Into Deadly Flotilla Raid

Rachel Corrie continues to Gaza

I have spoken tonight with the Irish Free Gaza co-ordinator and she has confirmed that the Irish cargo boat, the Rachel Corrie, is continuing towards Gaza and expects to reach there in the next two or three days. The Rachel Corrie, which has sailed from Ireland, was travelling more slowly than the other boats and was therefore not with the flotilla when it was attacked. The crew and passengers of the Rachel Corrie have told us that they are continuing towards Gaza and will attempt to succeed in reaching there. On board are a number of experienced members of the Free Gaza movement, who were involved in previous Free Gaza missions.

They are therefore calling on the support of all of us to increase the pressure on our own governments and on Israel, to ensure their safety and their successful arrival in Gaza.
There will be a press release about this soon, but currently the Free Gaza support team (in Cyprus) are exhausted and overwhelmed, so there is a need for us all to spread the news about the Rachel Corrie, and use this as one of the means of keeping up the momentum. One last thing – Free Gaza is appealing to activists to keep drawing attention to the fact that this is not just about aid – it is primarily about the right of Palestinians to have sea, land and air routes to the rest of the world and for all aspects of the blockade to end.


3 Facts You Need to Know About the Israeli Attack on Peace Activists on the Gaza Flotilla

Our main media organizations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to fill the airwaves with misinformation. Let’s reiterate a few simple facts.
May 31, 2010 |

It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.

How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.

If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.

The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.

So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:

* Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent “lynch” by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.

* The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.

* Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.

Today Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.

Will our leaders finally be moved to act?

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