The Middle-East geography is one of the main regions in the world where human rights and freedoms are violated. In addition to violating millions of people’s right to live that is a basic human right; hundreds of thousands of people in prisons are unjustly and illegally deprived of their right to live freely and are subjected to torture and ill treatment. As in the case of Syria and Iraq that was led into chaos, the entire world has turned a blind eye to the violation of human rights that has continued in Palestine for half a century.
In an aim to break the blockade in Gaza, which has literally been turned into an open air prison, we attempted to broadcast the injustices occurring in this geography to the world by organizing events such as the Gaza Land Convoy (On the Road to Palestine) and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that included the Mavi Marmara ship, with many people of conscience from international groups, and continue to do so at the present.
Attack on Mavi Marmara
In the wake of the Palestine elections in February 2006, Israel began to enforce a range of economic and political sanctions on Gaza. Since 2007, these sanctions have become more severe. A strict land, air and sea blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip. The movement of people and merchandise entering and leaving Gaza were severely restricted. All life resources were dried up in Gaza, the agricultural lands, schools, businesses and homes were destroyed with Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” that continued for 22 days from December 2008-Janurary 2009. At the present, 1.5 million Palestinians continue their struggle to survive in this open-air prison in Gaza. 72% of the population in Gaza is on the brink of starvation, 65% of which are children. The physical development of 10% of these children has been severely affected. UN described this as “intolerable.”
In May 2010, 6 international NGOs (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, Free Gaza Movement, European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, Ship to Gaza (Greece), Ship to Gaza (Sweden) and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza) organized an aid Flotilla to transport 6000 tons of humanitarian aid obtained as donations to Gaza. In addition to humanitarian aid, the Flotilla was also carrying 750 aid workers / supporters. Among the id workers / supporters from 36 countries including Germany, Kuwait, Israel, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Southern Cyprus, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt and Algeria, there were over 15 MPs, more than 60 international press members, artists and Peace Prize winner aid workers.
On 31 May 2010, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla comprising of the Mavi Marmara, Sfendoni, Challenger I, Eleftheri Mesogios, Gazza I and Defne Y vessels that departed with the aim of delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza were confronted with an illegal raid and intervention by Israeli military forces. The vessels were only carrying humanitarian aid and aid workers. During this attack and in its aftermath 10 humanitarian aid workers lost their lives and 56 were severely injured. 9 of the 10 were brutally killed during the attack and the 10th victim died after spending a prolonged period in coma. Participants on the Flotilla were illegally imprisoned and ill-treated. Even the injured were handcuffed. Some of the injured were imprisoned in cells, subjected to torture and assaulted for days. All of the participants were subjected to assaults and inhuman treatment, imprisoned, interrogated, their personal belongings were confiscated and unjustified actions were carried out to damage the ships.
Gaza Freedom Flotilla
- Why Gaza?
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is what prompted citizens from 36 countries to join the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to reports prepared by Amnesty International, Oxfam, Care International UK, International Red Cross Committee and the UN, 1.1 million of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza are in desperate need of food aid. The unemployment rate in Gaza is over 50%. 1.383 Palestinians lost their lives in the Israeli raid that began in December 2008 and continued for 22 days; 313 of these were babies and young children. The infrastructure of Gaza that was already a problem was in total ruins, the canalization system collapsed, electric production almost non-existent, hospitals and factories were destroyed, and there was a dramatic decline in health services per capita. A majority of the hospitals lack the necessary means for even the most basic treatments. As a result of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” on Gaza, 14% of the buildings in Gaza were destroyed, and due to the restrictions on transporting building materials to this region under blockade, it was impossible to construct new buildings on the sites of the demolished structures.
Following the raid on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, the transportation of many goods including tea, shoes and paper until there was a “relaxation” on the blockade was forbidden. Because of the Israeli blockade, aid materials desperately needed in Gaza were unable to reach the region. Today, the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza is continuing because of blockade. The UN Humanitarian Aid Commission, the International Red Cross Committee and many other NGOs declared the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel “illegal”.
The history of this humanitarian crisis that affected the whole of Palestine and naturally Gaza does not only date back to recent years. This issue claimed a place in history as the “greatest international problem” that has closely concerned the Middle-East and Europe for 60 years, and a problem that has failed to be resolved until the present. Due to the colonialism of the past, the Palestine issue is under direct responsibility of the European states. Since 1947 until the present, this has also been a problem for Europe.The Gaza Freedom Flotilla, symbolized with the Mavi Marmara ship was a peace attempt that promoted global values. The Flotilla, joined by aid workers from 36 countries, carried out the most humane initiative possible with the aim of delivering humanitarian aid to 1.5 million people living in the region to a region where there was a violation of human rights and where even the most basic human right of life was violated and there was a threat of famine.
In the course of history, many aid organizations similar to the Gaza Flotilla were staged with international initiatives. Aid reached the Spanish people during the Spanish Civil War from the whole world including distant geographies such as New Zealand and Australia despite all the obstacles of the fascists. In 1941 during the period of famine in German-occupied Greece, tens of ships carrying aid prepared by Turkey reached Greece despite the blockade. The blockade imposed by the former Soviet Union on Western Berlin was broken with an air corridor formed by the USA and Britain, and aid was transported by air to Western Berlin for almost 2 years. During the Battle of Gallipoli, a group of Muslim doctors from India struggled to treat the wounded amidst the bombs that continued to fall day and night. In 1941Turkey sent tens of ships of aid supplies to relieve the famine in the German-occupied Greece despite the various threats from Germany. The blockade imposed on Western Berlin by the former Soviet Union that condemned people to hunger and death was broken by an air corridor opened by the USA and Britain. Again, the aid organizations reached cities such as Sarajevo that were completely under blockade during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War despite all the hardships…No country was able to prevent aid activities even during World War II. In the numerous international agreements, it stated that organizations carrying out aid activities were not to be obstructed.
In the light of all these realities, the question “why Gaza?” is totally meaningless and insignificant. What is important is supporting those in need all over the world irrelevant of their nationality, ideas or belief.
- Why a Flotilla?
In the wake of the Gaza raid during December 2008-January 2009, Israeli authorities declared they allowed the passage of humanitarian aid materials into Gaza. Based on this, the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation appealed to the Israeli authorities in January 2009 to transport aid relief to Gaza by land and sea. However, the authorities failed to respond, even though this appeal was made several times during this year. When the situation in Gaza began to deteriorate even further, in January IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation that had been conducting activities to help Gaza for many years organized an event called “Open the Road to Palestine” to break the blockade and deliver aid to the people of Gaza. After this organization which was to be first by land where hundreds of vehicles participated, IHH’s aim than was to break the blockade on Gaza by sea with 9 ships carrying humanitarian aid.
Partners of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, that began with the slogan “Palestine our Route, Humanitarian Aid Our Load” coordinated by the Turkish base IHH, were organizations like the Greek Ship to Gaza Campaign, the Swedish Ship to Gaza, the Free Gaza Movement, the International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) that were carrying out activities for Gaza in different parts of the world.
The aim of the humanitarian aid Flotilla was to establish an aid corridor to deliver humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million people in Gaza that had been under blockade for more than 3 years, and was totally destroyed during the Israeli raid that continued for 22 days. The aim was at least to relieve the people in Gaza that had lived in destitution for many years.
The aim of the humanitarian aid Flotilla carrying 10 thousand tons of humanitarian aid, a majority of which were building materials, was to bring Gaza situation to the attention of the world again in order to prompt the international organizations, States and decision makers to launch an initiative to lift the blockade in the region. With the aid on this Flotilla, basic needs were to be delivered to the people, patients were to be treated, and the schools, hospitals and healthcare centers destroyed in the Israeli raid were to be rebuilt in Gaza. Shelters for the homeless, rehabilitation centers for the people of Gaza and play areas for the children were to be built. In order to materialize this, humanitarian aid volunteers of different religions, languages and races from 36 countries ranging from Latin America to Africa, from the Balkans to Central Asia, and the Middle-East to the Far-East joined this Flotilla to transport humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was classified as a major opportunity to prevent the reoccurrence of the scenes in Gaza to occur in the rest of the world, particularly in the Middle East, and ensure peace in the region and all over the world. There was hope that the international peace ships would help to ease the war and ongoing chaos in the Middle East, and serve as an inspiration for providing relief and solving issues in the region. The aim of this organization participated by over 700 aid workers from 36 countries was to give hope to the people of Gaza and end the blockade; to contribute to bringing peace in particular to the region, and generally to the world; but as the humanitarian aid Flotilla sailed in the Mediterranean international waters, the Flotilla and its passengers became victims of a raid carried out by the Israeli State.
- NGOs that organized the aid Flotilla were:
- Free Gaza Movement
- European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza
- İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı
- Ship to Gaza Greece
- Ship to Gaza Sweden
- The International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza
- Ships that participated in the Flotilla:
- Mavi Marmara (Country: Comoros, Passengers: 577, Passenger ship)
- Defne (Country: Turkey, Passengers: 20, Cargo ship)
- Gazze I (Country: Turkey, Passengers: 18, Cargo ship)
- Eleftheri Mesogios (Country: Greece, Passengers: 30, Cargo ship)
- Sfendoni (Country: Togo, Passengers: 43, Passenger ship)
- Challenger 1 (Country: USA, Passengers: 20, Passenger ship)
- Challenger 2 (Country: USA, Passengers: 20, Passenger ship, due to motor failure passengers were transferred to Mavi Marmara.)
- Rachel Corrie (Country: Cambodia, Passengers: 20, Cargo ship, due to motor failure, departure of the vessel was delayed for one day.)
- Cargo details of the Flotilla:
- Basic needs: Food, Textile products (clothing, towels, bed sets, shoes, material, carpets, kitchen equipment, quilts, blankets, furniture and beds)
- Medical supplies: Medical equipment- Ultrasound scanning equipment, X-Ray equipment, electrical hospital beds, dental units, dental equipment, Doppler echocardiography equipment, wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, stretchers, walking frames, sterilizers, mammography equipment, microscopes, blood circulation machines, hemodialysis machines, radiology equipment, crutches, ENT units, tomography machines, operating tables, gynecological examination chairs and various other medical equipment and medications.
- Construction materials: Iron-750 tons, Prefabricated homes-100 units, construction equipment: bricks, timber, chipboard, scaffolding, plumbing equipment, electrical tools, plastic window frames, windows, steel wire, measuring equipment, wheelbarrows, nails, montage equipment, bathroom fixtures, paint, power distribution units, stairs, insulation materials. Cement-3500 tons, ceramic brick adhesive-50 tons, playground areas-16 units and 2 containers of timber.
- Technical equipment: 2 electric power generators, equipment (electrical equipment, machines, ovens), Power units (5 units 85 kW-2 units 145 kW-6x150 kW- 3x165 kW-1x100 kW and 1 unit 35 kW), Power units (80 units 1-2-5 kW), ETC, 2xsalt refinery units, 20 tons paper.
What happened on the night of the massacre and days that followed?
- ‘Our Route is Gaza’
In the early hours of 31 May 2010, the Flotilla was obstructed by the attack of Israeli soldiers in international waters. All those on the ships were taken to Israel by force and the cargo on the ships and personal belongings of the people were seized. There were more than 700 people on the humanitarian aid Flotilla consisting of 6 ships. These ships that formed the Flotilla assembled in the open waters of Southern Cyprus on May 30. The route of the ships that began sailing towards the south on the same day at around 16.30 was 70-80 miles in parallel with the shore. The aim was to change route towards Gaza and reach the Gaza harbor during daylight when the ships reached 75 miles from the Gaza shore at approximately 10.00am the next morning.
- Raid in international waters
On Sunday night May 30 at around 22.30, the captain of Mavi Marmara began to receive harassing and threatening messages from Israel, and the Israeli war ships began to appear on the radar for the first time. The captain of Mavi Marmara repeatedly responded to each of Israel’s messages saying the ships were “travelling towards the south with almost 600 participants and the humanitarian aid on the Flotilla was being taken to Gaza.”
- Broadcast interruption
In the meantime, the Turksat satellite frequencies that were broadcasting to the media and to the world from the ship and the satellite telephone communications were interrupted; the Israeli war ships began to follow the Flotilla from close range. When the Israeli war ships began to approach, officials on the ship told passengers to wear their lifejackets because of the possibility of Israeli intervention. In all the broadcasts via satellite from the ships, the organizers of the aid Flotilla, aid workers and members of media on the ship repeatedly announced that the ships were on a mission of peace; were carrying nothing but humanitarian aid, and that the sole purpose of the Flotilla was to deliver humanitarian aid to the people in need in Gaza.
- Israelis raided the humanitarian aid Flotilla
The war ships continued the follow the ships like this until approximately 03.00am. Then around 30 zodiac boats and 4 war ships surrounded the Flotilla and were clearly approaching from all sides. In the meantime, submarines appeared and helicopters began circling around the aid Flotilla.
- Soldiers opened fire before boarding the ship
At approximately 04.30, assault boats carrying masked, armored soldiers began to approach the ship. There were at least 10 soldiers in each of the boats. As the soldiers attempted to board the ship from these boats, they opened fire on the ship. While all this was happening, military helicopters full of soldiers appeared over the ship and began to lower soldiers onto the vessel. The soldiers that boarded the ship were shooting at random. Meanwhile, some of the passengers who were totally unarmed were shot in the head from close range and killed, and many others were injured.
- They came to kill
Passengers who realized the soldiers who landed on upper deck of the ship were firing real bullets began to defend themselves and protect their babies, women and elderly who were waiting defensively on the lower deck with any objects they could find such as water bottles, chairs, sticks etc. The passengers disarmed three of the Israeli soldiers and their weapons were thrown into the sea; the Israeli soldiers who suffered slight injuries during the attack were taken to the doctors onboard the ship for treatment. In the meantime, via a television broadcast aired from another satellite frequency that was not jammed because Israel failed to notice this at first, the whole world witnessed the Israeli soldier’s massacre on the civilian aid workers on the ship…As the numbers of deaths and injured began to increase, the aid workers raised a white flag appealing to the Israeli soldiers to cease firing. However, the soldiers totally ignored this appeal and continued firing for a while.
- Aid worker doctors treated the Israeli soldiers
Continuous announcements were made in English and Arabic to the Israeli soldiers to cease firing and take the wounded to hospital. But despite these appeals, the soldiers who surrounded the lower salon on the ship continued to fire at the aid workers that were inside the salon from the windows. Then a woman from among the aid workers held her hands up and walked over to the soldiers telling them to stop firing. With the help of Hanin Zoabi, an Israeli MP who spoke Hebrew, the aid workers managed to communicate with the Israeli soldiers and told them that the wounded Israelis would be handed over so they could be taken to hospital, and were asked not to fire at the passengers. A few of the passengers and a doctor handed over the three wounded soldiers. After they received the injured soldiers, the Israeli soldiers opened fire on those who handed the over wounded soldiers and shot the doctor who treated the injured soldiers in the arm. Despite losing a great deal of blood, the wounded aid workers were kept on the ship from 05.00am in the morning until 19.00pm that evening. Doctors were not allowed to treat the injured. Some of the wounded were persecuted, they were kicked and beaten with guns; some were even shot at.
- Torture began on the ship
Reinforcements of soldiers were brought to the ship in assault boats and helicopters; specially trained K9 dogs were also boarded onto the ship. After a long wait, everyone in the salon was directed to the exit. A body search was carried out at the door, and then the handcuffed aid workers were assembled on the open deck. Men and women were forced to kneel down on the wet, dirty deck. They were not allowed to meet even their most basic needs such as going to the toilet or drinking water. Huge helicopters continuously circling over the ship were soaking the people with water, this continued throughout the rest of the journey. The circulation of wind from the helicopters alone was a great torture. After the aid workers were soaked with seawater on the deck under extreme winds from the helicopters, they were gathered in two salons with no ventilation, and the excessive heat and lack of air reached an unbearable scale. Talking, moving, standing up, even looking at the soldiers, anything was sufficient reason for the soldier’s intervention to assault the passengers. These interventions were sometimes verbal and sometimes with actions. After a long wait the ship began to move, the people had no idea of where they were going. This grueling journey that began at 09.00 in the morning continued until 19.00 that evening.
- Hijackers took the ship to Ashdod
When the Mavi Marmara reached Ashdod Port in the evening, hundreds of Israelis who gathered at the port met the aid workers swearing and shouting words of abuse. After a long wait, all the aid workers were taken off the ship. Before they left the ship the aid workers were body searched again and those who had their handcuffs removed were handcuffed again. The Israeli police took all those taken off the ship to an interrogation area. As soon as they left the ship, photos were taken of each of the aid workers. Before they entered the interrogation tent, the aid workers from the humanitarian aid Flotilla were subject to invasive and inhumane body search. Then the aid workers taken into the interrogation tents were told to fill in deportation documents prepared by the Israeli authorities. The humanitarian aid Flotilla was raided in international waters and the passengers were taken to Ashdod against their will. Therefore, the passengers refused to sign the deportation documents. Fingerprints and photos of all the acid workers were taken, and each underwent invasive medical examinations. Then their files were transferred to Shabak, the Israeli internal intelligence service. The intelligence service showed particular interest in certain names among the aid workers and interrogated these individuals repeatedly from the very beginning. While this process continued, officials told the aid workers that they would be allowed to go to the airport immediately if they signed certain documents, otherwise they would be detained in prison for at least two months. A majority of the aid workers refused to sign the documents in question. Then they were all transported to prison on buses and prison vehicles. The journey to the prison, which lasted for one and a half hours in some cases, finally ended at the Beersheva prison at around 03.00.
- Shackles on freedom
None of the aid workers could communicate with one another; those who asked to make phone calls were refused. They were placed in cells of two and four. The aid workers’ demand to communicate with officials from the Consulates of their own countries was continuously rejected with the word “later.” They had to do all the work in the cells: carrying and distributing goods, cleaning up after eating etc. Prison officials constantly made noise so the prisoners who had not slept for two nights could not rest. Every hour they would hit the metal doors and tell everyone to stand up. The officials repeatedly asked the prisoners for their names, where they came from and why they came. On June 2, officials began to come to the cells at 01.00; they would call out the names of individuals and started taking them out in groups. This continued until noon. While some of the groups reached the airport at 03.00, some were only able to reach the airport in the afternoon. On the way to the airport, the aid workers were boarded onto transfer vehicles. Some had to board 2.5m 2 prison vehicles in groups of six and travel a two-hour journey. When they reached the airport, during passport control they were forced to sign deportation documents. After long disputes, the aid workers were allowed to state they were brought to Israel against their own will on the documents. Throughout the entire passport control process the soldiers verbally harassed the aid workers constantly. After each clash with the aid workers, the soldiers congratulated one another and were complimented by their commanders.
- We will not leave anyone behind
Those who completed passport control were boarded one by one onto planes sent from Turkey. The first people to board the planes had to wait for almost 12 hours until the passport control of all the aid workers were completed. Some of the aid workers refused to board the planes until IHH President Bulent Yıldırım, journalist Adem Özköse and two of the aid workers were released from interrogation and boarded onto the plane. Israeli officials were told the plane would not take off until these people boarded, but the Israelis insisted that nobody was left behind; that all everyone had boarded the plane. Once again, officials were told the plane would not take off until those who were still held in the interrogation room were released. Eventually, one of the officials went to the interrogation room, removed the remaining four aid workers and took them to passport control. The aid workers boarded the plane with Consulate officials and MPs from Turkey. After the final controls were carried out on the plane, they departed for Turkey with the dead and injured, leaving behind the five severely injured aid workers being treated in Israeli hospitals. When the aid workers inquired about their personal belongings, they were told these would be sent on another plane, but only empty suitcases, broken telephones and cameras etc. arrived in Turkey. The Israeli officials confiscated a majority of the electrical devices. This was a substantial loss for the participants of the Flotilla. Furthermore, on returning to Turkey the aid workers later learned that their credit cards and phones confiscated on the ship were being used in Israel; that the computers and phones on the ship were stolen and sold by the Israeli soldiers. In addition, laptops belonging to some of the aid workers were stolen from the ship and sold in markets.
31 May 2010 until the present
- International organizations reaction to the attack
A statement from the UN strongly condemning Israel
The UN Security Council condemned Israel for the death of civilians that occurred during the operation, and demanded an independent investigation. In the statement by the head of the Council it said “The council condemns those acts which resulted in the death of at least 10 civilians and many wounded” and also said “The Security Council calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”
Organization of Islamic Conferences: Israel practiced “state terror”
Immediately after the Israeli attack, Foreign Ministers of the countries that were members of the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) gathered in Jeddah. As a result of this meeting in Jeddah, the brutal aggression by Israel was condemned; Israel’s aggression was defined as “piracy” and “state terrorism.” It was also stated that Israel violated international law. Countries that are members of OIC called for the necessary steps to be taken within the scope of international law and emphasized the need to lift the blockade in Gaza immediately.
Arab League condemned Israel
Amr Moussa, General Secretary of the Arab League said “We condemn this crime against a humanitarian mission and people. They were trying to help people. They were not on a military mission. Everyone should condemn this.”
African Union condemned Israel
African Union condemned the raid on the humanitarian aid Flotilla and called upon the international community for lift of the blockade in Gaza.
European Parliament strongly condemned the Flotilla attack
President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek called upon Israel to “explain its actions immediately.” Buzek: “As the European Parliament, we strongly condemn the blockade imposed on Gaza.”
Amnesty International: Excessive force was used
Amnesty International said the attack that resulted in the death of 10 individuals taking humanitarian aid to Gaza must be fully investigated. Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa said “Israel clearly used excessive force.”
Human Rights Watch: The attack must be investigated immediately
Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that they were deeply concerned about the Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid Flotilla. HRW said there could have been an illegal disproportion of forced used in the attack. HRW stated that the Israeli commandos used a fatal proportion of force and said a credible and independent investigation must begin urgently.
UN Security Council held an emergency meeting
After Israel’s attack on the humanitarian aid Flotilla on May 31, Ahmet Davudoğlu, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs called upon the UN Security Council for an emergency meeting. At the UN Security Council meeting on June 1, Davudoğlu asked the UN to begin an urgent investigation. Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davudoğlu said “This action was totally inappropriate. Israel’s conduct is a deep violation of international law. In the easiest terms, this is tantamount to banditry and piracy. This is a crime carried out by the state. Just as there is no excuse, there is also no justification in these actions. A nation or state that acts in this way has lost its legitimacy of being a respected member of the international public.”
- The states reactions to the attack
Guido Westerwelle, German Minister of Foreign Affairs said he was “deeply concerned” over the raid on the ships transporting aid to Gaza. He also said an extensive, transparent and credible investigation was necessary.
The Foreign Ministry condemned the raid carried out in international waters. Argentina, that announced it deeply regrets the loss of human lives, called for a complete investigation into the incident, and demanded an immediate end to the Gaza blockade and acts of violence that worsen the situation.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: “The Australian government deplores any violence and death. The Israeli government must begin an independent investigation at once and share the findings of this investigation with the UN Security Council.”
Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger: “The Israeli attack was shocking. Light has to be shed on this inhumane attack without leaving any doubt.”
The Belgium Minister of Foreign Affairs Steven Vaneckere stated that Israel carried out a “disproportionate” attack on the ships carrying aid to Gaza. He added that Israel opting to use disproportionate force to this extent was “extremely distressing.”
Brazil recalled its ambassador to Israel. Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs said “We could not have been more shocked. I hope the UN Security Council will accept a strong declaration. We are in need of action from the UN because this attack will certainly leave deep scars. We hope the UN will take measures and Israel complies with the demands.”
Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry Ma Zhaoxu said “We condemn the Israeli attack on the Flotilla transporting humanitarian aid to Gaza, we expect the UN to take quick action.”
Foreign Minister Lene Esperson said she condemned the extreme forced used by Israel. Immediately after the raid on the humanitarian aid Flotilla, the Copenhagen ambassador to Israel was called to the ministry.PALESTINE
Mahmud Abbas, President of Palestine declared three day national mourning in Palestine. The Palestine government asked the UN Security Council to arrange an emergency meeting. Ismail Haniya, leader of the Hamas administration described the Israeli intervention on the ships as a “cruel attack.” In his statement to the press, Haniya said “We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza.” Additionally, after the attack by Israeli soldiers on the ships carrying aid to Gaza, Hamas called upon the Arabs and Muslims to “protest” in front of the Israeli Consulates.
In his statement, French President, Nicolas Sarkozy accused Israel of a “disproportionate use of force.” In the statement from the Elysée Palace, it said Sarkozy “condemned the disproportional use of force and sent his condolences to the families of the victims.” In the statement it said “the details of this tragedy that shows the urgent need of starting the peace process again must be revealed from every aspect.” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner explained that the raid organized by Israel on the aid ships to Gaza was “extremely shocking” and demanded an inquiry into the incident.SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The Republic of South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel. In a statement by Ebrahim İsmail Ebrahim, South African Republic’s Deputy Minister of International Relations, he said “We recalled our ambassador to show we strongly condemn the attack. The recent attack on the aid Flotilla by Israel has seriously damaged the efforts of finding a solution to the problems in the region.”NETHERLANDS
Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen: “I am very shocked over the deaths which are deplorable. The Netherlands wants an inquiry to determine exactly how this happened.”INDONESIA
In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it said this was an illegal operation carried out in international waters; the Indonesian government will be in collaboration with international organizations in terms of Israel accounting for these actions.BRITAIN
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the attack on the ships was “completely unacceptable”; that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted without delay, and also emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid reaching the region. Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was saddened at the loss of lives and called for the opening of all the passages to deliver aid to Gaza. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said “there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.” Tony Blair, representative of Quartet Middle-East said he was shocked at the raid on the international humanitarian aid Flotilla to Gaza and demanded an inquiry into the incident.IRAN
Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee strongly condemned the Israeli raid. The committee said “The Zionist Israeli regime is the greatest threat to world peace and security. Israel, the Zionist regime is committing war crimes” and called upon the OIC, UN Security Council and international community to take action.IRELAND
Foreign Minister Michael Martin: “I am gravely concerned about the raid by the Israeli military on a Flotilla that was on a humanitarian aid mission. An attack of this kind is totally unacceptable.”SPAIN
Secretary of State for the EU Diego Lopez Garrido: “Spain unequivocally condemns the Israeli attack on the humanitarian Flotilla and it does so as a country, and as the acting president of the EU Council. Spain has summoned the Israeli ambassador to ask him for explanations of the attack.”SWEDEN
Swedish Foreign Secretary Carl Bildt: “This attack is an international diplomatic crisis. EU countries have clearly condemned Israel since the very beginning of the attack.”ITALY
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini: “We were shocked by the attack on the ships. I deplore in the strongest terms the killing of civilians. This is certainly a grave act. We demand a detailed investigation into the incident. EU should be included in this investigation and the truth must be revealed.”QATAR
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Emir of Qatar who referred to the attack as an “act of piracy” called upon those who preach justice and democracy to act on lifting the blockade in Gaza. The Foreign Minister: “We strongly condemn this criminal and illegal attack by the Israeli government. This illegal, cruel blockade must be lifted immediately. This is an opportunity for us to renew our support for the Palestinians, we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state of which Eastern Jerusalem will be the capital.” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri: “The Israeli attack has inflamed the struggle in the region. The international community should take action.”MALAYSIA
Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman: “The Israeli raid in international waters is a serious violation of international law. UN Security Council must hold an emergency meeting.”EGYPT
Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing with Gazza to allow the transportation of necessary medical and humanitarian aid, and the transit of the ill and injured.NICARAGUA
Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo: “Nicaragua has suspended its diplomatic relations with the Israeli government. Israel has clearly violated international and humanitarian law. ”NORWAY
Strongly condemning the attack, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Ghar Store demanded the immediate lift of the blockade on Gaza.PAKISTAN
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi: “Pakistan strongly condemns the attack on the humanitarian aid convoy. The Israeli raid on the ships transporting aid to Gaza is a violation of international law.”RUSSIA
Russian Foreign Minister: “A full investigation on the incident is necessary for light to be shed on all the details. The use of arms against civilians and the detention of the vessels on the high seas without any legal grounds constitute a gross violation of generally accepted international legal norms. At the same time, we consider this incident evidence that the Israeli blockade on Gaza must be lifted immediately, and the necessary steps taken in improving the humanitarian and social situation of the people in Gaza.” Saudi Arabia that said Israel had committed a massacre called upon the international community to “fulfill their responsibilities towards the Israeli aggression.”SYRIA
Syria prepared an official memorandum calling an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council to discuss the outcome of Israel’s attack on the aid ships. A statement by the Chilean Foreign Ministry said they are saddened by the Israeli attack on civilians, and condemned the use of such force particularly in international waters.TURKEY
Prime Minister Erdoğan: The raid was “state terror” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “No matter what the reason, this attack by the Israelis is state terror contrary to international law, the Israeli government has clearly proved that it does not want peace in the region. This not only a threat to peace in the region, but also an action that will bring no peace for its own people. They must know that we will not remain silent and unresponsive to this inhumane attack.”VATICAN
Vatican press spokesman who stated that the situation is being monitored with great concern said: “It’s a very painful fact, especially for the unnecessary loss of human life.”NEW ZEALAND
Prime Minister John Key: “This incident is tragic and totally unacceptable. Obviously we are very concerned. We condemn this aggression that caused loss of human lives.”GREECE
Speaking about the military operation Israel organized on the ships carrying aid to Gaza, Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitris Droutsas said “Nothing can justify the use of such violence, we condemn this attack.” He summoned the Israeli ambassador to Athens and related his response to the attack. Additionally, he also cancelled a joint Greek-Israeli military exercise code named “Minoas 2010.”
- UN Mavi Marmara Report Conclusions
260. The attack on the Flotilla must be viewed in the context of the ongoing problems between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and people. In carrying out its task, the Mission was exposed to the depth of conviction on both sides of the correctness of their respective positions. Similar disasters are likely to reoccur unless there is a dramatic shift in the existing paradigm. It must be remembered that might and strength are enhanced when attended by a sense of justice and fair play. Peace and respect have to be earned, not bludgeoned out of any opponent. An unfair victory has never been known to bring lasting peace.261. The Mission has come to the firm conclusion that a humanitarian crisis existed on the 31 May 2010 in Gaza. The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion. Any denial of this cannot be supported on any rational grounds. One of the consequences flowing from this is that for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law. This is so regardless of the grounds on which one seeks to justify the legality of the blockade.262. Certain results flow from this conclusion. Principally, the action of the Israel Defense Force in intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the circumstances and for the reasons given was clearly unlawful. Specifically, the action cannot be justified in the circumstances even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.263. Israel seeks to justify the blockade on security grounds. The State of Israel is entitled to peace and security like any other. The firing of rockets and other munitions of war into Israeli territory from Gaza constitute serious violations of international law and of international humanitarian law. But any action in response, which constitutes collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza, is not lawful in any circumstances.264. The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the Flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted a grave violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law.265. The Mission considers that several violations and offences have been committed. It is not satisfied that, in the time available, it has been able to compile a comprehensive list of all offences. However, there is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
• Willful killing;
• Torture or inhuman treatment;
• Willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.
The Mission also considers that a series of violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law have taken place, including:
• Right to life (art. 6, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights);
• Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art.
7, International Covenant; Convention against Torture);
• Right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (art. 9, International Covenant);
• Right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (art. 10, International Covenant);
• Freedom of expression (art. 19, International Covenant).
The right to an effective remedy should be guaranteed to all victims. The mission must not be understood to be saying that this is a comprehensive list by any means.266. The Mission notes that the retention by the Israeli authorities of unlawfully seized property remains a continuing offence and Israel is called upon to return such property forthwith.267. The perpetrators of the more serious crimes, being masked, cannot be identified without the assistance of the Israeli authorities. They reacted in a violent manner when they thought that anyone was attempting to identify them. The Mission sincerely hopes that there will be cooperation from the Government of Israel to assist in their identification with a view to prosecuting the culpable and bringing closure to the situation.268. The Mission is aware that this is not the first time that the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate with an inquiry into events in which its military personnel were involved. On this occasion the Mission accepts the assurances of the Permanent Representative of Israel that the position which he was directed to defend was in no way directed towards the members of the Mission in their personal capacities. It is nonetheless regrettable that, on yet another occasion of an enquiry into events involving loss of life at the hands of the Israeli military, the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate in an inquiry not appointed by it or on which it was significantly represented.269. The Mission regrets that its requests to the Permanent Mission of Israel for information were not entertained. The reason initially given was that the Government of Israel had established its own independent panel of distinguished persons to investigate the Flotilla incident. The Mission was told that for that reason, and also because the Secretary-General had announced the establishment of another distinguished panel with a similar mandate, that “an additional Human Rights Council initiative in this regard [are] both unnecessary and unproductive.”270. The Mission did not agree with that position and for that reason suggested to the Permanent Representative of Israel that he should direct to the Council and not the Mission a request that the Mission defer submitting its report to permit other enquiries to complete their tasks. The Mission has not received any direction from the Council to date and considers that it would have been obligated to respond positively to any such directive from the Council.271. In the light of the fact that the Turkel Committee and the Secretary-General’s panel have not concluded their sittings, the Mission will refrain from any remarks which are capable of being construed as not allowing those bodies to complete their tasks “unfettered by external events”. The Mission confines itself to the observation that public confidence in any investigative process in circumstances such as the present is not enhanced when the subject of an investigation either investigates himself or plays a pivotal role in the process.272. Elsewhere in this report the Mission has referred to the fact that it found it necessary to reinterpret its mandate because of the manner in which the resolution appointing it was couched. It is important in the drafting of matters of the sort that the impression is not given of the appearance of any prejudgment. The Mission took particular care at the first opportunity to indicate that it interpreted its mandate as requiring it to approach its task without any preconceptions or prejudices. It wishes to assure all concerned that it has held to that position scrupulously.273. All the passengers on board the ships comprising the Flotilla who appeared before the Mission impressed the members as persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza. The Mission can only express the hope that differences will be resolved in the short rather than the long term so that peace and harmony may exist in the area.274. Nine human beings lost their lives and several others suffered serious injuries. From the observations of the Mission, deep psychological scars have been inflicted by what must have been a very traumatic experience not only for the passengers but also the soldiers who received injuries. The members of the Mission sympathize with all concerned and in particular with the families of the deceased.
concerned and in particular with the families of the deceased.275. The Mission is not alone in finding that a deplorable situation exists in Gaza. It has been characterized as “unsustainable”. This is totally intolerable and unacceptable in the twenty-first century. It is amazing that anyone could characterize the condition of the people there as satisfying the most basic standards. The parties and the international community are urged to find the solution that will address all legitimate security concern of both Israel and the people of Palestine, both of whom are equally entitled to “their place under the heavens”. The apparent dichotomy in this case between the competing rights of security and to a decent living can only be resolved if old antagonisms are subordinated to a sense of justice and fair play. One has to find the strength to pluck rooted sorrows from the memory and to move on.276. The Mission has given thought to the position of humanitarian organizations who wish to intervene in situations of long-standing humanitarian crisis where the international community is unwilling for whatever reason to take positive action. Too often they are accused as being meddlesome and at worst as terrorists or enemy agents.277. A distinction must be made between activities taken to alleviate crises and action to address the causes creating the crisis. The latter action is characterized as political action and therefore inappropriate for groups that wish to be classified as humanitarian. This point is made because of the evidence that, while some of the passengers were solely interested in delivering supplies to the people in Gaza, for others the main purpose was raising awareness of the blockade with a view to its removal, as the only way to solve the crisis. An examination should be made to clearly define humanitarianism, as distinct from humanitarian action, so that there can be an agreed form of intervention and jurisdiction when humanitarian crises occur.278. The Mission sincerely hopes that no impediment will be put in the way of those who suffered loss as a result of the unlawful actions of the Israeli military to be compensated adequately and promptly. It is hoped that there will be swift action by the Government of Israel. This will go a long way to reversing the regrettable reputation, which that country has for impunity and intransigence in international affairs. It will also assist those who genuinely sympathize with their situation to support them without being stigmatized.