Belfast protest over Israeli raid

Published Monday, 31 May 2010
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A protest has been held in Belfast after the Israeli storming of an aid flotilla near Gaza killed as many as 19 people on Sunday night.

Ships, including one from Ireland, were intercepted in international waters and warned not to pass an Israeli sea blockade.

Israeli military claim they came under gunfire and knife attacks first, with at least ten pro-Palestinian activists killed and four soldiers wounded.

In a statement released by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, it has been claimed three Irish nationals are known to be unhurt.

The group has said that Shane Dillon is on a plane back to Ireland, while Dr Fintan Lane and Fiachra O Luain have both contested deportation and are now in an Israeli detention camp and will be brought to court within 72 hours.

Speaking through group, Dr. Lane's father Jim said: "I am proud of my son, not only for going on this solidarity mission to Gaza, but also for refusing deportation.

"He is making a point that Israel should have no control over who enter Gaza. He has done nothing wrong and I support him.

"Furthermore, it is my belief that the United States should stop giving carte blanche to the Israeli state, for it is this support that gives Israel the confidence to act with such impunity."

Protest

A large crowd gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Monday afternoon to protest against the action taken by Israeli commandos, as other demonstrations took place across the UK and Ireland.

One demonstrator told those assembled - who carried placards and banners and shouted pro-Palestinian slogans: "We have to do something - we cannot keep silent all these years.

"We have been silent. They have silenced us.

"You cannot criticise Israel, they are above the law, they are above everything - NO. They are the criminals."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was among those in attendance.

"I welcome the fact that Michael Martin has sent for the Israeli ambassador and has indeed sent the Irish ambassador to check out the wellbeing of the Irish nationals," he told UTV.

"But thus far, there seems to be a complete close-down, clampdown, on any information coming out of the flotilla."

The action taken by Israeli commandoes has been condemned by both the British and Irish Foreign Ministers.

Photo released by the pro-Islamic Turkish aid organization IHH, showing Turkish and international activists on the deck of a Turkish ship shortly before Israeli warships allegedly attacked several ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid bound for Gaza

"The reports of up to 15 people killed and 50 injured - if confirmed - would constitute a totally unacceptable response by the Israeli military to what was a humanitarian mission attempting to deliver much needed supplies to the people of Gaza," said Michael Martin.

William Hague said the British embassy was in "urgent contact" with the Israeli government, asking for more information.

He said: "I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza flotilla. Our embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli government.

"We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.

"We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations."

Among others on board the Irish ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, was Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire.

In 2009 she was arrested and detained in Israel after attempting to defy the blockade by sailing a boat load of aid into Gaza.

According to Amnesty International, Ms Maguire is believed to be safe.

"The family have lost contact with Mairead, but believe her to be safe, as this boat (the MV Rachel Corrie) was delayed leaving Cyprus and is behind the boats which were intercepted," said Northern Ireland Amnesty spokesman, Patrick Corrigan.

Amnesty is now calling for Israeli authorities to conduct an immediate, independent, investigation and to make public the rules of engagement issued to the troops involved.

"Israeli forces clearly appear to have used excessive force," Mr Corrigan continued.

"Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defence, alleging that protestors attacked them, but it seems incredible that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have possibly been justified."

video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH, purporting to show a woman carrying a blood stained stretcher on a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip, after Israeli soldiers boarded the vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast.

Footage has emerged showing pandemonium on board the Mavi Marmara, with activists in orange lifejackets running around as others tried to help a colleague lying on the deck.

Co Tyrone man John Hurson, who represents the pro-Palestinian group Viva Palestina, was due to have been onboard the lead vessel.

"No one on board was armed - they were all humanitarians taking aid to Gaza," he told UTV.

Sinn Fein councillor on Derry City Council, Gerry MacLochlainn, was deputy leader of a previous aid convoy to Gaza and is appalled by the apparent attack in international waters.

"It is time now for the International Community to act and Ireland should lead this action," he said.

"Israel must be brought to book and made amenable to international law like everyone else."

Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85, and a number of Euro MPs were also on board the ships caught up in the strike.

Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brún has spoken out against Israel's actions.

"The EU must suspend its preferential trade agreement with Israel and ensure that it can only be re-instated if Israel ends its blatant disregard for international law and basic human rights," she said.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London has said: "We have no doubt regarding the real intention of the flotilla. It's not about humanitarian aid.

"You can see clearly from the footage that when they boarded they were attacked with knives and sharp metal objects and left with not much option but to respond."

Pictures of activists with sticks bludgeoning an Israeli soldier as he tried to land on a boat from a helicopter were shown by Turkish channel NTV.

Satellite news channel al-Jazeera reported from the lead Turkish ship saying Israeli forces fired and boarded, leaving its captain wounded.

Video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH purporting to show Israeli soldiers aboard a military vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast surrounding a Turkish ship.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
22 Comments
chris owen in holywood wrote (1,417 days ago):
But don't you know that sephadic jews believe that God has not willed the creation of Israel. As the original jews, I think you should follow their teaching that God was angered by the jews for the killing of christ and only when the new messiah comes will God give the jews their homeland. To create a jewish homeland before this, is to go against god's will. This is why zionism is so hated across the world and why Israel will never have peace. Believe in the word of the true jews not their politicians.
marc irvine in lisburn wrote (1,418 days ago):
Paul; I may well have got my a & e muddled up and placed them in the wrong order but at least I know that ISRAEL is a countRy! And Marty Edwards remember that Israel is the promised land for the Jews and the Jews are Gods choosen people and the nations that rise against the Jewish shall fall!
Kevin McNally in Kerry wrote (1,418 days ago):
Marc Irvine Gaza is a terrorist stronghold?? If you view starving men, women and children as terrorists then you have a seriously warped view. These people have no power, food our medicine. The stateless (state of israel) has over 600 nuclear weapons and one of the most powerful military organisations in the world today. It amazes me that this mighty state who decided to, yet again, tell everyone else in the world to go away, were so shocked when the victims fought back back and appeared to threaten the ALMIGHTY israeli commandos with plastic deck chairs etc. All I can say that Israel will rue the last couple of days especially if they attack the Rachel Corrie. Israel DOES NOT have every right to act in whatever manner they see fit. These boats were in INTERNATIONAL WATERS! The israelis were in fact pirates in this case. The people MURDERED were the victims of INTERNATIONAL pirates nothing else!! Those in detention are victims of INTERNATIONAL KIDNAP. Check your law. Why are you bringing in Irish history? Divide and conquer? This has nothing to do with anything else. This is a modern day act of unjustifiable piracy and murder in the hope that it will frighten everyone so that the humanitarian aid will dry up to Gaza. Why were the israeli assassins carrying a list of names with photos of certain individuals? Why did the israeli assassins open fire before boarding? Indeed at least one dead and several injured were reported prior to the boarding. So! I ask is it not reasonable that the commandos were attacked with plastic chairs etc as they came down their ropes. People had already been killed and injured. The israeli videos show POOR HEAVILY ARMED COMMANDOS being attacked with deck chairs. This was obviously a desperate attempt at self defense. I would have done the same. In conclusion!! israel attacked a HUMANITARIAN ship in INTERNATIONAL waters. israel MURDERED a number of INNOCENT people and WOUNDED a large number of others. israel then KIDNAPPED around 600 other individuals from INTERNATIONAL waters and DETAINED them. HAVE I GOT ANYTHING WRONG HERE??
Ann McCoy in New York wrote (1,418 days ago):
ISRAEL HAS GONE INSANE. Pray for the last ship which is Irish and headed for Gaza after a two day delay. It was inspected in Ireland. Israel has said it would use more force. ISRAEL has lost any pretense of being a civilized country. Israel is toxic / THE USA MUST CUT OFF ALL AID TO ISRAEL.
Leila in Belfast wrote (1,418 days ago):
I cannot believe that some are dumb enough to excuse the inexcusable here. I read some comments and seriously wonder if the ones who wrote them are either actually israeli people or just incredibly naive and thirsty for blood. Someone said Israel had the right to do that, wrong! International waters do not belong to israel alone and you could have taken the time to watch the video to see it was the activists who wanted to defend themselves. Israel think they are above international law, hey they even probably think they're above divine laws and thanks to people like you, innocent citizens die in atrocious circumstances every day in Gaza... I wonder how you can sleep at night.
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