The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Radio interviews backfire on Candidate Judy

Winnipeg's reputation for crime is so bad that Judy Wasylycia-Leis' own mother in Montreal shudders at the thought her daughter is running for mayor here.

Last week Wasylycia-Leis used two radio interviews to audition her election campaign themes and crime was one of them.

More community centres is her solution. With more paid staff and higher taxes to pay for it.

Wasylycia-Leis knows she's vulnerable on the crime file, given her track record in watering down crime bills and supporting criminal youth over citizens in the 14 years she sat as an NDP member of Parliament. So she's working on revamping her image, from enabler to saviour of the run-down neighbourhood rec centre.

But more about that later.

CJOB's Richard Cloutier showed he's a reader of The Black Rod when he asked Candidate Judy on June 21st to cite some jobs she's had that haven't been tied to politics and which qualify her for the job of mayor.

We've pointed out that Wasylycia-Leis HAS NEVER HAD A REAL JOB IN HER LIFE. From the day she left university to the day she left Parliament Hill she's worked for the NDP in some capacity, where she was told the Party line on what to say, how to act, and what to think.

She obviously prepared for this question, as she didn't hestitate to answer Cloutier.

She had worked, she said, "beerslinging at a local pub when I was going to university." And she had been a waitress in a lodge "to put myself through university." Oh, and she worked "as a restaurant assistant", whatever that is.

In other words, FORTY YEARS AGO, Judy Wasylycia-Leis had a summer job. "So I've experienced real life," she told CJOB. Uh huh.

Cloutier asked her about property taxes. Raise 'em or stick to zero change?

She dodged this way and that and threw up carefully worded answers to say "Yes, of course I intend to raise taxes. Are you deaf ? " without saying it in so many words.

"I will strive for responsible management of our taxes to ensure the revenues we've got will meet the needs of today," said the self-appointed Champion of Transparency. She will, she said, be "trying to ensure we hold the line over the term."

And how does she intend to do that? She told Marty Gold of Kick-FM's The Great Canadian Talk Show on June 23rd.

She will start by waiving the $7 million to $9 million in lieu of taxes we should be getting from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Yes, nothing says funding the future better than waiving taxes on the pet projects of millionaires. Unless it's refusing to collect taxes from a close personal friend of a former NDP premier.

What's the museum's share of city property taxes? About equal to a two percent rise in taxes. So Judy Wasylycia-Leis is willing to pass on all that revenue and make it up from seniors and low-income home-owners.

See what you learn as a "restaurant assistant".

Candidate Judy tried pitching the social work approach to crime to Marty Gold, but he only bought a pinch because he had done his homework.

NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis was in Parliament when the Liberals, with the support of the NDP, passed the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2002. She was there when NDP Justice Critic Joe Comartin boasted to the press that the NDP deserved the credit for keeping the principles of deterrrence and denunciation out of the sentencing provisions in the Act, to weaken the ability of judges to keep juvenile criminals in custody.

Miss Transparency tried to deflect the questions by pretending he was asking about amendments to the YCJA. But eventually she had to run for the hills.

"My memory's not always perfect," she said. She had to do some research about "what we said, what I said." She would come back at some future date with a refreshed memory, she promised. We can hardly wait.

On other issues, Wasylycia-Leis showed she's not ready for primetime.

* Downtown renewal. She's for it. But she can't figure out what all those different organizations do. They should all be lumped into one, with a plan. And timelines. And goals.

* Rapid Transit. Yes. Spend. Spend. Spend. Just don't ask the Aspers to pay.

* A police helicopter? Veolia? Neither for or against. But the process for approving both was bad.

Process, there's a vote-getter.

* She rightly mocked incumbent mayor Sam Katz for his declaration four years ago of "war on mosquitoes", only to do nothing over his term and then announce this election year yet another study of the city's mosquito fighting policy.

But she, herself, acknowledged she has no position on aerial spraying, malathion, or buffer zones.

How could that be? She's lived in Winnipeg most of her life. How can anyone who lives here not have an opinion on mosquitoes?

Does the fact she's spent Monday to Friday in Ottawa for the past 13 years, with weekends at her cottage, mean she's just a tourist in her hometown?


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla: moment by moment, part two

Israeli military sources say the commandos had control of the top deck of the Mavi Marmara within 3 minutes of the first landing, once they got the okay to use live fire.

A second team had been dropped by helicopter and more soldiers were coming aboard on the deck below from the Zodiacs. They began handcuffing passengers.

But when they assessed the situation, they could see they were still far from their objective---to stop the ship and search it. The first problem was that three commandos were missing and presumed captured by the mob. If that wasn't bad enough, their pistols were missing with them.

Ken O'Keefe, former Marine who renounced his U.S. citizenship:"...on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos. This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day. One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution. I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them. I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers. But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did. I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun. I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.

I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea."

"But then there was a shout of 'live fire,' and that we had shooting casualties." Once the situation had stabilized - aided by the arrival of reinforcements - the commandos began to treat the wounded." (Ha'aretz)

Two commandos had been shot, one in the knee and one in the stomach, and their colleagues had to assume the shots were fired from the missing handguns.

Civilians aboard the ship said afterward they believe the men were wounded by friendly fire as commandos opened fire to clear the deck. This is a strong possibility and is one of the things an inquiry will determine.

Before the commandos moved off the top deck to take control of the bridge, they began taking fire from a rifle, according to Israeli spokesmen.

“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.”

However, this could only have added to the concern that the mob that attacked them with clubs and knives was now armed with guns.

Nevertheless, they had a job to do. They began working their way off the top deck to the bridge below, or rather, they fought their way.

As a military spokesman was quoted in Ha'aretz:

"They would jump on us from doors and windows with batons and knives. At this stage, we all stood with guns and fired at anyone coming at us with means or intent [to harm]."

Here, then, is the possible answer to how a single commando could be responsible for six of the nine men killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, a statistic that has incensed the anti-Israel cabal.

A soldier, walking point, would have been the first to be jumped, and the first to fire at point blank range at his attackers.

Othman Battiri, Al Jazeera:" Most of the fighting took place on the upper level around the room of ship captain, where the activist tried to prevent the soldiers from trying to control the captain’s room. This is where live ammunition were used."

"Sadettin Furkan was another volunteer, up with the captain when the soldiers from the helicopter came to take over the bridge. They shot him three times in one leg and again on the other foot." (Al Jazeera)

Journalist Othman Al-Bteiri (same guy, different spelling): "The real battle... The real massacre took place around the bridge. People tried to prevent the Israeli soldiers from taking over the captain's cabin. That was why live ammunition was used around the bridge. Live ammunition was also used in other parts of the ship, especially on the port side, where most of the martyrs and wounded were hit. Some 35-40 people of various nationalities were wounded."

Interviewer: "How long did the battle last?"

Othman Al-Bteiri: "The battle started at about 4:15. People were praying their dawn prayers, when there were cries of 'Allah Akbar,' and we knew that we were under attack. The attack lasted until 5:15 or 5:30. Then the Turks said that the Israelis had taken over the ship, and that everybody should sit down. Even so, we kept hearing gunfire."

The nine dead and their wounds:

Cengiz Alquyz, 42: Four gunshot wounds: back of head, right side of face, back, left leg.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 60: Four gunshot wounds: right chest, back, right hip, right temple.

Cegdet Kiliclar, 38: One gunshot wound: middle of forehead.

Furkan Dogan, 19: Five gunshot wounds: nose, back, back of head, left leg, left ankle.

Sahri Yaldiz: Four gunshot wounds: left chest, left leg, right leg twice.

Aliheyder Bengi, 39: Six gunshot wounds: left chest, belly, right arm, right leg, left hand twice.

Cetin Topcuoglu, 54: Three gunshot wounds: back of head, left side, right belly.

Cengiz Songur, 47: One gunshot wound: front of neck.

Necdet Yildirim, 32: Two gunshot wounds: right shoulder, left back.

All together they suffered 30 gunshot wounds, which, at first, seems excesssive, until you realize that they could have been hit in 3- or 4-round bursts from the Israeli guns.

"About 10 minutes after leaving the upper deck, they captured the bridge. It was 25 minutes after the boarding began..." (For the commandos, no fiasco and relatively few casualties, By Anshel Pfeffer , Ha'aretz)

(Operation Calamity, London Times, Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Avi and Gareth Jenkins in Istanbul, July 6, 2010) "The Israeli commandos stormed the control room of the ship. “The door was closed and I opened it with a strong kick,” said their captain. “The skipper was standing there talking to me, I think in Turkish. I ordered him in English to turn off the engine. He refused. I put the handgun to his throat. He got the hint. The engine was switched off. I informed the command that we controlled the ship.”

Turkish photographer Kursat Bayhan: “While hurrying to the press room, I saw someone on the floor; he had been wounded in the shoulder. Then, while passing by Room Two, there was a woman giving her husband a heart massage while yelling, ‘Please don’t die, please don’t die.’ Then the captain made an announcement, saying: ‘Our ship has been taken over. There are many dead and wounded people. Everyone stay calm and do not show resistance.’

Sara Colborne Palestine Solidarity Campaign's director of campaigns and operations: "The captain announced that live ammunition was being used and to stop resisting this act of piracy, and to go downstairs and sit down."

Knesset member Haneen Zoabi: "There was no provocation…the Israeli story talks about provocation, but there were people who were afraid for the safety of the passengers, and the organizers gave the passengers instructions to move to the lower levels [of the ship] and stay in their rooms for their own safety."

With the ship stopped, the job of the commandos was not over. They still had three men missing.

Their captors tried to bargain with the commandos for the release of their colleagues.

"One activist used a loudhailer to tell the Israelis the four captive soldiers were well and would be released if they provided medical help for the wounded activists. With an Israeli Arab lawmaker acting as mediator, the Israelis agreed." Reuters, June 4, 2010

Andre Abu-Khalil, Al Jazeera cameraman:

"The organisers [of the flotilla] swapped the four Israelis kidnapped, or caught, by the people on the ship, and because they were beaten up, because it's kind of resistance from our side, we swapped the Israeli soldiers to [get] to treat our injured."

Recai Kaya, a representative of the Enderun Association, said one of the activists on the ship was shot by a soldier when they were returning one of the injured Israeli soldiers to the raiding force.

What exactly transpired when the captured commandos were returned is still unclear, perhaps deliberately so. One of the men gave an interview to reporters and did little to clear it up.

Captain R., captured Israeli commando: "(The unit had seized control of the ship by that point, save for the lower-most level.) "Another soldier and I managed to get out of there and jump into the water."

Alon Ben David, channel 10 military correspondent, gave an unofficial account of events from army sources: attack on the ship started on 4:30 AM, with 15 soldiers going down the ropes to the upper deck. The first three were captured in the lower deck. After one minute the soldiers opened fire and took control of the upper deck.

At 4:35 another team arrives by helicopter. At 4:50 the army starts taking over the ship. At 5:00 the army announces it has control over the ship’s bridge. The soldiers in the lower deck escape from their captives: two jump to the water, and the third reach the front of the ship and awaits there for the other commandos to rescue him.

But....according to a report from Al-Jessira the third soldier didn’t escape; IDF commandos broke into the room he was held in and shot the passengers surrounding him.

So what really happened? We may never know unless an inquiry uncovers the truth. And even then some details may be withheld.

The takeover of the Mavi Marmara was followed by a raft of wild, obviously invented propaganda statements that were printed unchallenged in the anti-Israel press.

Ibrahim Musaji, "a 26-year-old activist from England who was also on the Mavi Marmara, was asleep during the raid. He says he rushed to the deck immediately after being woken up by gunfire to see his friends lying in a pool of blood. He said the soldiers threatened to kill him if he attempted to help them. “They hate people, all they want was to shed Muslim blood.” He also claimed that there was poison in the food fed to prisoners."

Al-Jazeera TV, June 2, 2010:

Muhammad Ghulam from Mauritania: "Then we saw them (the Israedlis) rip out all the metal rods from all over the ship, and they put them at the bow of the ship, before we arrived at the Hebrew port. Then they brought all the Zionist journalists, who – instead of showing how we were not allowed to go to the restroom, how we were denied food and water and not allowed to pray for 24 hours – they started filming those metal rods, which they themselves had ripped off the ship."

Erol Demir, "another activist on the Mavi Marmara, said they had footage of the chaos and the carnage on the ship, emphasizing that the footage will show the real face of Israeli solders to the entire world. “They even shot those who surrendered. Many of our friends saw this. They told me that there were handcuffed people who were shot.”

Mohammed Omar Satlah, "a Syrian who said he was part of the ship's medical team, said he counted 16 bodies. He said the bodies of two activists fell into the sea and weren't recovered."

But there was one Israeli account of the release of the hostage commandos, purportedly an eyewitness account by one of the soldiers on the ship, which is so inflammatory that we initially dismissed it as an Internet hoax. Which, we stress, it may be. It tells how Capt. R was released---after being deliberately disembowelled. In an ordinary world, this would be unthinkable, but when dealing with Islamic jihadists, we've seen worse. So here is that account, allegedly from Commando Y (who was quoted in part one of this reconstruction):

“Dear Aunt X:

This is Y writing you. As you know, it was my unit and my friends who were on the ship. My commander was injured badly as a result of the “pacifists’” violence. I want to tell you how he was injured so you can tell the story. It shows just how horrible and inhuman were the activists. My commander was the first soldier that rappelled down from the helicopter to the ship. When he touched ground, he got hit in the head with a pole and stabbed in the stomach with a knife. When he drew out his secondary weapon–a handgun, (his primary weapon was a regular paintball gun- “tippman 98 custom”), he was shot in the leg.

He managed to fire a single shot before he was tossed from the balcony by 4 Arab activists, to the lower deck (a 12 feet fall). He was then dragged by other activists to a room in the lower deck were he was stripped down by 2 activists. They took off his vest, helmet, and shirt, leaving him with only his pants and shoes on. When they finished they took a knife and expanded the wound he already had in his stomach. They cut his ab muscles horizontally and by hand spilled his guts out.

When they finished, they raised him up and walked him on the deck outside. He was conscious the whole time. If you are asking your self why they did all that here comes the reason. They wanted to show the soldiers their commanders’ body so they will be demoralized and scared. Luckily, when they walked him on the deck, a soldier saw him and managed to shoot the activist that was walking him down the outside corridor. He shot him with a special non lethal bullet that didn’t kill him. My commander managed to jump from the deck to the water and swim to an army rescue boat (his guts still out of his body and now in salty sea water). That was how he was saved. The activists that did this to him are alive and now in Turkey and treated as heroes.

I’m sorry if I described this with too many details, but I thought it was necessary for the credibility. Please tell this story to anyone who will listen. “

What gives this even a glimmer of credibility is confirmation of two small details by other, non-Israeli sources. The fact that the soldier was "stripped down" was confirmed by a witness, quoted in Part One. And the shooting of one of the men escorting the commando was also cited by an activist.

For the record, here's the official Turkish account of Capt.R's injury:

Dr. Hasan Huseyin Uysal, a Turkish doctor: "The third soldier, however, suffered a cut in his stomach that reached his stomach membrane but not the organ itself. It was nothing fatal. As a doctor, I wouldn’t want to guess the nature of this injury but it could have been caused by either landing on a sharp pole from the helicopter or a blow from a pipe with a sharp edge. I couldn’t tell."

With the recovery of the captured men, the commandos converged on the nursing station on the third deck. It was, by then, full of wounded passengers. Two dead bodies were in the women's washroom.

The passengers expected the Israelis to immediately attend to the injured. Instead, they refused to enter the room., despite the pleas of those inside.

"Canadian Farooq Burney, director of a Qatari educational initiative, said the commandos waited more than an hour before treating the wounded, even though activists had made a makeshift sign reading: "S.O.S. .. Please provide medical assistance."

Sara Colborne: "At 5.15, we started to broadcast out of the tannoy (PA system) for help for the injured. We asked the Israelis to stop the attacks and to help the injured. Instead, the saloon remained surrounded by soldiers targeting individuals with laser sights. I could see the red of the laser sights sweeping over people's heads.

We wrote 'SOS Need medical assistance, people are dying, urgent', and the Palestininan-Israeli Knesset member took that to the back of the boat, where soliders were pointing guns at her and told her to go back. The message was brought up again, to the back, by a British citizen, and she was also told to go back."

Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter, Gulf News: "After about half an hour, Knesset member Haneen Zoubi, armed with a white handkerchief, a message on a large piece of cardboard and her parliamentary immunity, risked her life to walk straight to the window. The soldier nervously raised his weapon and gestured for her to stop. She went ahead, stood there for a few seconds to ensure that the message was read, and walked back.

No response. The sun was up by then.

The announcements by Masarwa continued. Then, a British woman

wrapped herself in the Union Jack and made the same move."

Canadian Farooq Burney: said he witnessed one elderly man bleed to death before his eyes after being shot.

"He just passed out in front of us and we couldn't see where he was hit so we

opened up his lifejacket and we could clearly see that he was hit in the


Burney said. "He was losing a lot of blood. It was on ... the right, just

close to his chest and there was blood coming out from there. He passed away."

Jamal Elshayyal al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara:

“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved. They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid.”

Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter Gulf News: "Lubna Masarwa, an official

from the Free Gaza Movement, addressed the Israeli soldiers, saying the

ship had surrendered and its passengers would not confront the army. "You

have blood on your hands. Four have died and we have many more critically

injured. They need help," she shouted."

"She must have repeated the message at least ten times in English, then a few times in Hebrew. No response."

"Approximately an hour and a half after the first call for help, a soldier shouted through the window in a heavy Hebrew accent: "Injured only! One by one!"

People were allowed out, but the rule "one by one" was strictly enforced,

with the wounded expected to walk, hobble, or crawl out by themselves to be searched before being treated by a medic.

'At 7am, the first critical person was allowed out, and he was delivered into

Israeli hands. An attempt was made to send medics with the critically injured people. Instead, they were cuffed and put on deck and they weren't allowed to accompany those critically injured people to hospital. I saw four dead bodies laid out on the floor of the saloon." (Guardian, June 4, 2010)

Why did the Israelis refuse to help the wounded, some of whom died in the

room waiting for treatment of their gunshots?

The answer is obvious. The passengers still possessed the pistols seized from the captured commandos. They couldn't take the chance they were being lured into a trap.

And as it turns out, they were right. At least one of the guns was in the room where the nursing station was set up.

Osama Qashoo, activist, says in an address posted on Youtube “I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it." This happened, he says, after most of the people in the room had been taken out.

And Sarah Colborne, of the PSC, one of the most vocal critics of the Israelis must have forgotten this comment she gave to one reporter:

"Sarah Colborne of the PSC and another passenger negotiated with soldiers for the evacuation of some at least of the mounting injured. Many of the bleeding would not go with the Israeli’s. Fearing they would be less safe getting ‘treatment’ from the troops, than below decks being operated on without anaesthetic." (Shocking Testimonials From The Mavi Marmara Survivors, By Lauren Booth, 11 June, 2010,


The Israelis did everything possible to avoid bloodshed. They tried diplomacy. They confronted the blockade runners in strength to intimidate them to stop. They used non-violent crowd-control measures such as stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets when trying to board. Their soldiers were armed with paintball guns. Even after the commandos received permission to use their handguns, they shot people in the legs, something civilian police are taught never to do. Only when they knew the ships' passengers were armed with captured handguns, did they begin using their weapons to kill, and even then, only a bare minimum of people were killed, and we now know they were jihadists who were determined to die and become religious martyrs---in another context it would be called suicide by cop.

So any news story or commentary that fails to highlight the extraordinary measures the Israelis took to stop the Mavi Marmara without killing anyone is biased.


What about the complaints against the Israelis?

The ship passengers had no weapons.

Wrong. The activists actually mean to say they had no firearms.

They had weapons. Steak knives are sharp implements used to cut meat into bite-sized pieces---until they're used to stab a living person to death. Then they're weapons. And the passengers had knives. They had axes. They had clubs and they deliberately cut up railings to make steel bars which are deadly weapons if used to strike people in the head.

The activists were defending themselves. They have that right.

Wrong. They prepared their weapons well in advance of any attempt to board the ship. And when the commandos, using non-lethal crowd-control measures such as tear gas reached the ship's deck they were attacked by dozens of weapons-wielding men who tried to kill them by beating them to death or stabbing them to death. To say the passengers were defending themselves and had the right to kill the commandos is like saying the knife-wielding idiots who get shot by police because they won't drop the weapon are actually defending themselves and have a right to kill cops.

The Israelis fired first. They opened fire even before the first commando landed by helicopter.

The Israelis did fire first---tear gas and stun grenades, followed by rubber bullets. Non-lethal measures. And they did so after warning the ships by radio that force would be used to stop the ships if they continued to run the blockade. The use of these measures came as a surprise only to those passengers who were sleeping when the confrontation started. Many woke up to find people had already been killed and wounded by live fire, and to them, this was an unprovoked attack. Their hatred of Israel did the rest and fuelled their "eyewitness" statements that the Israelis came in shooting.

The Israelis had no authority to stop a ship in international waters and that gave the activists the right to use lethal force to stop them.

Wrong. The various laws of the sea acknowledge the legitimacy of blockades under certain conditions and the Gaza blockade meets those conditions. Canada engages in stopping ships in the open seas to search for
Al Quaeda terrorists and even has websites bragging about the training of their sailors in such boarding actions.

The Israeli commandos were wounded by friendly fire and the activists did not try to kill the boarding party.

It's possible that the two shot commandos were, indeed, shot accidentally by their own side. However the commandos didn't start shooting to kill in revenge. They asked for and received the okay to use their guns only after watching one commander thrown over the side of the ship and as they faced the real possibility of being overrun by a mob armed with knives and metal clubs. The fact that the first use of live fire was to shoot people in the legs to clear the deck demonstrates that they did not want to kill passengers randomly, even those making up the lethal mob. In fact, even the activists use this argument to paint themselves as peaceful; they could have, but didn't kill their commando hostages, they say.

Final thoughts

For the Israelis:

According to a senior officer, "Under the circumstances, and I do not like
the result, I think we did the best we could. We took care of five ships
without injuries. On the sixth ship, we faced a harsh attack and killed nine

"No real peace activist was injured. No soldier was killed, even though it
came pretty close. In the end the ships are docked at Ashdod. It was very
complicated and the result is near perfect."

For the activists:

A peace-loving, wounded activist was videotaped in his hospital bed in Turkey and sends a message you can see for yourself on Youtube:

"Greetings to Hamas -- On with the Resistance."

The future

Yasser Kashla is a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization.” He is funding another two ships to run the Gaza blockade, one of which will carry carry journalists and parliamentarians including 12 former American diplomats.

Last weekend he was interviewed on Al-Manar, Hezbollah's television station when he expressed optimism " that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews]" that came to my homeland back to their homelands."

"I hope that when the day comes, those ships will be able to take the European refugees [the Israelis] back to their homelands. I am calling out to the Israelis to do that....[Captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit needs to return to Paris, and the rest of the murderers need to return to Poland."

He added: Do not "believe in the illusion of peace created by modern Arab leaders....Even if our leaders sign peace agreements, we will not respect them. Our children will return to Palestine."


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla: a minute-by-minute reconstruction of what really happened

It's taken three weeks to collect enough information to piece together what really happened when Israel enforced it's blockade of Gaza by boarding the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

The story that emerges is of clashing perceptions of the same events. But the conclusions are inescapable.

Here, collated from news sources around the world too numerous to mention, is the full story of that event, in the actual words of the participants where possible.

You will see how:

* while most passengers slept, a relatively small group of men intent on Islamic martyrdom planned to escalate the expected confrontation with the Israelis beyond anything imagined by the rest of those who signed on to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

* the taking of three Israeli commandos hostage was the tipping point that plunged the takeover of the Mavi Marmara from a police action to a bloody military rescue mission

* a single commando could dispatch six of the 9 "activists" who were killed during the takeover

There had been 8 prior attempts to break the blockade by sea and 2 by land (from Egypt) since August 2008.

Israel tried to avert a confrontation with the six ships that were planning to run the blockade this time. Israeli diplomats approached Turkey and other governments in the region to get them to stop the challenge-by-sea of its cordon around Gaza. The New York Times reports the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv told Israeli his government "could do nothing because the boat was sailing under the auspices of a private group".

Three days before the confrontation, Israel's most widely circulated newspaper, Ma'ariv, carried "leaked" details of how the navy intended to handle the situation.

Here is a posted translation of part of the article:
Maariv, 5/28/10 P. 4

"Head to Head in the Heart of the Sea

" From the moment that the ships will pass the “red line” on their way to Gaza, the fighters of Unit 13 will take control and transfer 800 passengers from their boats back to where they came from. And special arrest units were set up.

" If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation will transfer to the stage of force. “We are afraid that there will be a terror attack by the boats,” said a high ranking officer. “If terrorists have gotten on the boats or if there is an intention to use hot weapons against our forces, we will use full seriousness and caution. We want to avoid using force but as soon as there will be danger to the life of our forces we will be forced to use live fire as a last resort."

Military officials had to have expected the warning would fall on deaf ears. Only three days before, the flotilla backers had staked out their position and it was the direct opposite of Israel's.

Freedom flotilla ready to break the Gaza Strip blockade

Published 25 May, 2010, 23:06

Nadezhda Kevorkova for RT, Larnaca

All the nine ships, their passengers and cargo go through meticulous customs inspections in every port of departure.

If Israel stops the flotilla before it reaches Gaza, they will form a “floating island” in neutral waters, said Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish charitable foundation IHH.

Israeli MP Hanin Zoabi believes the Israeli army and police cannot prevent the Freedom Flotilla from breaking the siege without damaging the country’s reputation.

“The flotilla will go ahead even if they open fire,” she said.

However, the Freedom Flotilla has prepared a surprise for Israel. The list of its passengers includes many people whose arrests will greatly damage Israel’s reputation. The people to whom I managed to talk to ruled out tough actions by Israel.

Indications are that from the beginning, this was planned as a confrontational challenge to the Israeli blockade.

Hussein Orush, an official of the Turkish pro-Palestinian group Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), one of the flotilla organizers, talked to the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera TV about the desire for martyrdom among the Turkish activists. "Everybody wanted and was ready to become a martyr... Our goal was to reach Gaza or to die trying."

"One of the martyrs was 19 years old. We've just found his last diary in his suitcase. The last lines he wrote before the attack were: 'Only a short time left before martyrdom. This is the most important stage of my life. Nothing is more beautiful than martyrdom, except for one's love for one's mother. But I don't know what is sweeter – my mother or martyrdom.' This was the last thing that the martyr Furkan wrote, and the last thing said by our brothers."

Journalist Saleh Al-Azraq, talked to the U.K.-based Al-Hiwar TV about the religious fervor among the passengers of the Mavi Marmara prior to its setting sail. "It made you feel like you were going on an Islamic conquest or raid."

A video posted on YouTube shows passengers chanting "Remember Khairbar, Khaibar, O Jews. The Army of Mohammed will return." This was a reference to the historical capture of the last Jewish settlement in Arabia. The Jews in that oasis were killed and their leader was beheaded. His wife was forced to become one of Mohammed's "wives."This is what the 'peace mission' was celebrating en route.

As the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla, approached Gaza, Israel made contact. At 11 p.m. Sunday Israeli ships were spotted on radar. Then they radioed the captain of the Turkish ship.

The warning message sent by the Israeli navy [to the Mavi Marmara] was as follows: "You are approaching an area of hostilities, which is under a naval blockade. Gaza coastal area and Gaza Harbor are closed to maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in Gaza Strip and invites you to enter Ashdod port. Delivery of supplies will be in accordance with the authorities' regulations and through the formal land crossing to Gaza and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports." The reply was: "Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza."

According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel retains control of a 40-kilometer strip of water off the Gaza coast.

Hanin Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament: “I went into the captain’s room. He was asked by the Israeli Navy to stop. He said that we are a Turkish ship at a distance of 130 miles. That was at 23:30."

Mahmut Coskun, a Turkish doctor on board: "We knew something was going to happen because the Israelis had radioed our ship’s captain about four hours before to ask where we were going and so on."

Huwaida Arraf, chairman of the Free Gaza Movement: "At 11:00 pm Cyprus time and in international waters off the coast of Israel, the boats were contacted by the Israeli navy. "Who are you and where are you going?" Our reply was that we were part of a flotilla and we were going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies."

Hasan Nowarah, chairman of the Justice for Palestine Centre in Glasgow: ""They were communicating with our captains, through the radios, warning us to turn back. "We never replied to them at some points; at others, we explained to them we were in international waters and were not attacking Israel."

Ms. Huwaida Arraf (Free Gaza Movement) on NPR: "Midway, about a hundred miles... of Gaza, the Israeli Navy started radioing us and threatening us, ... that we turn back. And we kept letting them know, we let them know the name of our vessel, whos captaining it and that we are unarmed, we constitute no threat."

Fiachra O Luain of Ireland: “The Israelis first made contact by radio at 11.05pm exactly. They identified themselves as an Israeli navy warship and threatened to use force, claiming it would be the responsibility of the captains onboard. We reminded them we were a humanitarian convoy in international waters and they said they would use any mean necessary."

Sarah Colborne (Campaign Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign): "(We) tried to issue a distress signal and "were trying to broadcast messages that we were a humanitarian aid flotilla. That we were peaceful, that we had no weapons, that we were being threatened by the Israeli Navy in international waters and that we were calling on the international community to come to our aid. Israel had been blocking the satellite transmission and so it was difficult to get the message out."

“Israeli boats were detected on the radar at 11pm on Sunday evening. The decision was made to move further back into international waters. An emergency medical room was assembled and we put our life jackets on."

Kevin Ovenden, a representative of Viva Palestine, a British-based registered charity set up in January 2009 to run a humanitarian aid convoy to the Gaza Strip: “We knew the Israelis were going to attack, or intercept us in some way...We were 90 miles north of the Israeli coast, and 22 miles away from the buffer zone that Israel has set from its shores.

“We had tight organization procedures in place and people were prepared. “The captain and the most experienced activists on board said that people should rest. Many people did while others stayed on the look out."

Kevin Neish of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid : "After that, I thought nothing was going to happen, I thought, well, I'm going to go down and put my feet up and have a few hours sleep and start off fresh when daylight comes. But I woke up because of all the noise, and what not, not the attack but people doing things. I heard grinders going which was bothering me and it turned out they were grinding the chains that they hang up around the lifeboat stations. They were grinding these chains off the middle posts as weapons within sight of the Israelis coming...."

Ship's Captain Mehmut Tuval sent his first mate to investigate the grinding noise. He found Turkish activists cutting up the ship's railing to create clubs. The mate says he seized what he found and threw the clubs into the ocean.

IHH activists elsewhere were arming themselves with knives from the six cafeterias on the ship, as well as axes from fire extinguishers.

The "activists" have since denied outright that their side was armed with weapons, or else have made excuses for the deadly weapons.

German MP Norman Paech, 72, speaking to reporters in Berlin:"We had not prepared in any way to fight. We didn't even consider it," he added. "No violence, no resistance -- because we knew very well that we would have absolutely no chance against soldiers like this. "We wanted to show that we were peaceful."


NPR Host: "On the Turkish flag vessel, it appears that there were people aboard who were armed at least with sticks and knives. Is that a misrepresentation or are you surprised by the, let's say, less than passive resistance, less than civil disobedience that was exhibited elsewhere in the flotilla?"

Ms. Huwaida Arraf ( Free Gaza Movement): I, what I know, we had agreed with the coalition that we are not going to use any violence. However, I can't guarantee or say that some people didn't try to fight back. But we didn't have any guns. And I know that's because even when I myself at one point had to transfer to the Turkish ship because our ship was having mechanical problems. As soon as we entered, they took us to the side, checked us to make sure that we were not carrying weapons.


Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hazmi, was photographed on the deck of the Mavi Marmara brandishing his large curved dagger

Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera reporter: "I have been shown the picture of a Yemeni man, and this is ridiculous, who was on the ship and most people know that every Yemeni in the world has a Yemeni style knife, that is a cultural thing and does not have anything to do with violence."


Israeli military officials say they had already considered ways to halt the boats — through sabotage of propellers or engines, the use of ropes or chains — but all were rejected as dangerous or impractical. Disabling a huge boat like the Mavi Marmara could lead to its sinking or to days of towing it to shore, they concluded.

Hanin Zoabi, Israeli MP : "We saw four Israeli ships that maintained a distance because we were in international waters. At 4:15, we saw the ships approaching.”

Farooq Burney, the Canadian director of Al Fakhoora, a Qatar-based charity for fostering education in Gaza: " I went to sleep, but got up at 3:30. The attack began happening at about 4:10.

"The first thing that happened was that someone on the Israeli boats threw gas bombs or something from the boats onto our deck. There was a very loud bang, a huge bang, and a lot of smoke. Some of the women started screaming when they heard the bang."

Kevin Ovenden, Viva Palestina: : “At 4.25am the attack began...There were two motorised dinghies, carrying 14-20 commandos, on either side of the boat.

“It was clear they were armed – it was the equivalent to an SAS raid. They were all wearing paramilitary style balaclavas.

“The attack opened with percussion grenades.

“These don’t just make a noise but send shockwaves of heavy vibration. They were trying to create terror and panic.

Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera reporter: "During that hour and half in the early morning everybody on board the ship thought that no-one would survive the Israeli attack because we saw about 30 war vessels surrounding this ship and helicopters attacking with very luminous bombs, the sound of them makes you think you are dead."

Kevin Neish, a self-described human shield and one of three Canadians on the ship: "What woke me up was flash grenades about 15 feet from the back of the ship. There were a huge explosions and flashes and then it was just a big cloud of tear gas and I could see people running through the tear gas with gas masks on because they had brought a large collection of gas masks, brand new ones."

Abbas Al Lawati, an Omani Journalist with Gulf News: "When smoke started appearing, an activist handed me a handful of cut onions to smell, saying it would help in resisting the tear gas. I had no idea about the trick but continued sniffing on onion from one hand as I held my camera in the other."

Paul McGeough, Fairfax Media Chief Correspondent in Istanbul: "Suddenly sound bombs and tear gas were exploding on the main aft deck, where prayers were held five times a day. The life-jacketed passengers on the rails at first seemed oblivious as those behind them donned the few gas masks that were on board and others, wearing asbestos gloves, sought to grab the devices and hurl them back at the Israeli commandos before they exploded."

"The defense of the boat was quite well organized," said Espen Goffeng, a 38-year-old activist from Norway. "There was a plan to keep soldiers off the boat."

Ken O’Keefe, former US Marine who has given up his American citizenship: "When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli attack on the Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiastically committed to defence of the ship."

Andre Abu Khalil, a Lebanese cameraman for Al Jazeera TV: "Twenty Turkish men formed a human shield to prevent the Israeli soldiers from scaling the ship. They had slingshots, water pipes and sticks. They were banging the pipes on the side of the ship to warn the Israelis not to get closer."

Abbas Al Lawati , Gulf News: "I saw some impressively effective resistance. Men tasked with guarding the boat had resorted to using hosepipes to push trained Israeli commandos that were trying to climb the ship. Some were thrown into the sea by the pressure of the pipes. The pipes also briefly pushed away Israeli navy speedboats that had been firing tear gas canisters and smoke bombs."

Kevin Neish : "Before the attack, I walked around the ship about an hour before and what they had was nuts and bolts and pieces of pipe around the edge of the ship to throw at the Israeli Zodiacs. That's the weapons I saw [with] the activists: I saw links of chain and nuts and bolts, wooden links."

Espen Goffeng: "I looked over the rail and saw the Zodiacs. It seemed hopeless for the Israelis - they tried to lock on their grappling hooks but they were hit by the fire hoses and their own projectiles going back to them."

Nidal Hejazi, a 26-year-old Palestinian at a news conference in Oslo:. “Two boats came from behind and up along side our ship. We were the first to stop the soldiers from coming onboard the ship... We only used our hands”.

Lebanese activist Hani Suleiman: "The Israelis started shooting at our vessel, the Mavi Marmara, from helicopters and sprayed us with tear gas. We were prepared to defend ourselves, and some of us tried pushing the soldiers off the ship. We were also armed with sticks and whatever we could find on board, but we did not have any weapons."

Srdjan Stojiljkovic, a cameraman hired by the flotilla's organizers to film the project: "They came silently and tried to climb on board, throwing deafening bombs as the crew turned on lights on them, as well as fire hoses."

"The boats withdrew, but soon a helicopter appeared, with commandos descending one by one from a helicopter."

The passengers had successfully kept the Israeli boarding parties off the ship for about 10 minutes. The decision was made to use helicopters to land commandos to seize control of the Mavi Marmara. As they rappelled to the deck, the commandos fired warning shots at the people below.

Espen Goffeng,: "The first ammunition I heard striking the ship sounded like paint balls.''

Hasan Nowarah, watching Israeli soldiers storm the Mavi Marmara before they boarded the ship he was on: “We looked at the Marmara ship, we can see the Israeli helicopters dropping soldiers and screaming and shouting, bullets firing all over the place. Within seconds we can hear ‘tick tick tick’ around our ship. It turned out they were using paintballing guns they were shooting at us."

Hear the sound of paintball guns for yourselves:

Nidal Hejazi: “A little later, a helicopter came over us, and soldiers were dropped down. The four soldiers who first came down started shooting at us immediately. They started with rubber bullets. I was hit with a few bullets.”

Instead of scattering under the barrage of missiles and stun grenades fired at them, the activists stood their ground, something that baffled the Israeli commandos and which, in hindsight, suggested the men were trained in combat.

“They didn’t even flinch,” said one commando. “Regular people would move.”

Dr. Mahmut Coskun, the Turkish doctor on board, said the first commandos down the ropes appeared disoriented and frightened. He said they called out in English, noting that few Turks understood English. But Koskun didn't understand what he was seeing.

Ron Ben-Yishai, military correspondent for Yediot Aharonot, embedded with Israeli Navy: "The commandos were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows."

As each Navy commando hit the deck he was attacked by men armed with steel bars, wooden clubs, and slingshots firing glass marbles. He would be swarmed and beaten savagely.

Dr. Coskun: "They ran at them without pause or hesitation."

Canadian Farooq Burney: "People rushed the first commando and they overpowered him."

Globe and Mail: "How? Did they use wooden clubs or metal rods or anything?"

Burney: "No, it was just basically hand-to-hand combat. You have to realize there were about 25 or 30 people fighting with this guy, and they overpowered him and disarmed him. Then they threw him onto the deck below."

Captain R., Israeli commando: "I was the second to be lowered in by rope. My comrade who had already been dropped in was surrounded by a bunch of people. It started off as a one-on-one fight, but then more and more people started jumping us. I had to fight against quite a few terrorists who were armed with knives and batons."

"... I saw people holding knives who were approaching me and attempting to stab me, I took out my weapon and shot one bullet."

Then he was overcome and his pistol taken from him.

K., the fourth commando down told Israeli reporters he saw his "team leader" on the deck of the ship, with a gun to his head.

"The fourth commando, K., saw his team leader on the deck, with a Turkish activist holding the pistol he had grabbed from him and pointing it to his head. K. jumped from the rope and managed to shoot the activist holding the gun. This happened 20 seconds after the first soldier landed on the deck. (Navy: Activists tried to kidnap 3 commandos during Gaza aid flotilla raid, By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz, Published 04.06.10)

The mob was not deterred by the gunfire.

Capt. R.: "At that point, another twenty people starting coming at me from every direction. They jumped at me and hurled me to the deck below the bridge."

"A great amount of people threw me down to the main deck, to the lower deck. As I was thrown down, a group of another 10 people jumped on me, stabbed me with a knife in my stomach." (JERUSALEM, June 2, 2010, Flotilla Accounts Begin to Clarify Israeli Raid, Stories from Israeli Commandos, Defense Officials, Activists Start Explaining Events Aboard Gaza-Bound Ship, CBC News)

Even as they fought for their own lives against the enraged mob, one or more commandos saw their commander thrown over the side of the ship. At this point, they radioed for permission to use their 9mm. guns.

LONDON TIMES - "Operation calamity. The Israeli commandos who stormed a flotilla of aid ships were expecting a cakewalk – but then the bullets began to fly


"The first Israeli to understand the situation was a young soldier monitoring live images from the scene. “They are smashing the fighters,” he was heard shouting. “They’re giving them hell.”

An officer in the command room asked: “Who is smashing whom?”

“The Arabs ... the terrorists ... these people ... they are giving hell to the fighters.” He paused. “They threw him [a soldier] from the upper deck!”

On his speedboat, Marom heard over the communications system the tense voice of one of his commando officers on board: “They are using real arms, I repeat, they are using real arms. Request permission to use handguns.”

(Navy chief Eliezer Merom and the head of the naval commandos, Lt. Col. A., were in the boat next to the Mavi Marmar ...ed.)

Two minutes after the helicopter landing had begun, the head of naval commandos gave the okay to start using live ammunition.

The situation was dire for the Israelis. The first helicopter landing had barely begun before the ship's passengers seized one of the commandos were using to rappel down and tied it to a mast to tether the helicopter and make it crash. Someone in the chopper cut the rope free, leaving the helicopter's second rope the only way for commandos to get down to the ship---and turning them into sitting ducks for the mob below.

By the time the 15th and last commando reached the deck, at least half of the first team had been incapacitated. Three had been captured, two had been shot, one had a fractured skull, and another had a broken hand or arm. The commandos on the ship and in the helicopters above began firing to drive the mob off the top deck.

Many people aboard ship are convinced the switch to real bullets was related to the landing of the second team of commandos.

Andre Abu-Khalil, Al Jazeera cameraman
"First they [the Israelis] tried to come by helicopter and tried to come down on the main deck. But the Turkish people were gathering on the rooftop and they managed to grab three of the soldiers, which led to a second helicopter to come and start shooting live bullets on the people."

Lebanese activist Hani Suleiman, a member of the National Committee against the Gaza Embargo: " When the military saw that their soldiers were overcome by the crowd, they started shooting at the vessel from the helicopters and zodiacs. I was one of the first people to be injured [ bullet pierced both of Suleiman’s legs] while I was helping one of the other victims."

Osman Çalık was shot in the knee, and he credits Israeli MP Hanin Zuabi for saving him another bullet. “While I was lying on the ground after my knee was injured, he was about to shoot a second time. Israeli deputy Hanin Zuabi, one of the volunteers aboard, shouted at the soldier in Hebrew to stop. And he did not shoot at me again,” he said.

20-year-old Ahmed Luqman Talib wasn't so lucky. "I saw a man who nearly got shot – I could see the red dot of the laser weapon sights on his knee, but he moved in time."

"I felt it slice through my leg – blood was squirting from my right leg and then a second bullet sliced across, just above my knee." His femoral artery nicked, he was gushing blood as he was carried down two decks to the temporary first-aid post.

His wife Jerry Campbell was treating four gunshot victims in the nursing station. "I looked up as I was caring for a wounded Indonesian and saw my husband being carried in."

She might have been nursing Indonesian cameraman Sura Fachrizaz who was shot in the chest and seriously injured.

British activist Kevin Ovenden: “I was on the second deck. A man standing a metre in front of me was shot in the leg, the man to the right of me in the abdomen. There was pandemonium and terror.

Some of the shots were targetted.

Kenan Akçil: "I was on the deck when our ship was raided. We only tried to protect humanitarian aid materials in the ship. We did not have any weapons. I was shot in my back while trying to throw a soldier into the sea.

Suat Coşmaz: "Sure, we were protecting ourselves, with fire hoses. We were trying to spray pressurized water at the Zodiacs. That's when they shot me."

More gunfire came from commandos in the Zodiacs beside the ship.

Al Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal: "After I finished filing that last report and I was going down below deck, one of the passengers who was on the side of the deck holding a water hose — trying to hose off, if you will, the advancing Israeli navy — was shot in his arm by soldiers in the boats below."

Fatima Mohammadi, Chicago lawyer and national organizer for Viva Palestina, said she was the only woman on the top deck when the firing began: “They started with rubber bullets and stun grenades and then it switched at some point. The cameraman next to me was shot once with a rubber bullet and once with live fire from one of the boats. Blood was pouring out as I worked on his arm.”

Al Jazeera television cameraman Andre Abu Khalil said "other commandos, trying to scale the ship, opened fire to break up human chain of about 20 Turkish men, who were using slingshots, water hoses and metal pipes to try to hold off the boarding party. The line disintegrated after the troops shot one of the men in the neck and the other in the head."

Cengiz Songur, 47, was killed by one gunshot wound to the front of the neck, according to an autopsy. But his death went almost unnoticed. The death that shook the mob and gave the Israelis the initiative happened on the top deck.

Ali El-Awaisi, from Dundee, said his friend was hit "right between the eyes" and "didn't stand a chance".

Press TV Correspondent Hassan Ghani : "It was a friend of mine a person that had helped the press get Internet access on the ship, it was his job to help setup laptops on the ship. He was shot straight in the forehead by an Israeli bullet...I have been told that my friend was taking pictures at the time."

Ebrahim Musaji, 26: "They brought the body and put it just close to my feet. He was just taking a picture. He was not armed or anything.

"He was shot from the helicopter and he was shot right in the head. You could see some of his brain coming out of his head."

Dead was Cevdet Kiliclar, one of 60 journalists on board the Mavi Marmara, and because of that he was accorded more attention than the ordinary passengers. His death has become legendary in the post-flotilla propaganda campaign to illustrate the alleged brutality of the Israelis.

Why shoot a photographer doing his job? The answer probably lies with this snippet from Ha'aretz:

"By that time, helicopters thrummed and commandos rappelled to the deck. One of the Mavi's guards, who gave his name only as Halit because he feared retribution, said he and others shook the dangling helicopter ropes and subdued the descending Israelis.

"They were firing noise bombs and plastic bullets," he said. "We used sticks and bars and slingshots. As soon as the soldiers came down, we took their guns and beat them with only our hands.... One activist running with me was shot in the forehead, another in the leg."

The only person among the dead who was shot in the forehead (often described by witnesses as between the eyes) was Cevdet Kiliclar who was "running with us", "us" being the mob attacking the commandos.

His death stunned the flotilla organizers who were forced to reassess their strategy.

Abbas Al Lawati, a graduate of Montreal's Concordia University: "I saw a number of people carrying a dying man down the stairs. His face was unrecognisable, covered in blood. He was apparently one of the first to go down, after an Israeli gun targeted the centre of his forehead from a helicopter, spilling his brains into the hands of another activist who was trying to look after him.

Upon seeing his body I felt nauseous and had to take a step back and walk into the press room nearby. The Palestinian member of Israel's Knesset, Haneen Zoubi, walked into the press room, where everyone was ducking to avoid the windows as Israeli guns kept firing. Haneen had been on the deck outside where the battles were ongoing.

"What's going on outside?" I asked?

"What's going on? War is going on," she said."

The Turkist leaders had big plans for their hostages.

Salah al Ahmed, 45, a Kuwaiti on board the ship said Turkish passengers who had captured the three Israeli soldiers “called them Shalit One, Shalit Two and Shalit Three”.

Gilad Shalit is the Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas three years ago and has been held hostage ever since. The Turk leaders must have been salivating at the possibility they could use their hostages to force the Israelis to back off, and maybe even deliver the three to Hamas in Gaza. What a propaganda coup that would be.

Instead, however, the Israelis were shooting to kill and there was nowhere to go with the hostages. Bummer.

Dr. Arief Rachman: "The bullet that had entered between the victim's eyes, I suspected, had gone right through his head, destroyed his brain and left a big gaping hole on the back of his head.

I asked several volunteers to get a stretcher, and it was then that I spotted Fahmi Bulent Yildirim, the president of the Turkish humanitarian organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) who organised the Freedom Flotilla, standing behind me. His face was stony, and he tried to go towards the captain's deck but he was prevented from doing so by many people around him.

Bulent took off his white shirt. Someone tied it to a wooden stick and began to wave it..."

Bulent Yildirim, the president of the Turkish organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) which organized the flotilla: "I took off my shirt and waved it, as a white flag. We thought they would stop after seeing the white flag, but they continued killing people."

When that didn't stop the Israeli commandos, Yildirim went to Plan B.

Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr. Uysal in the photographs of him treating a commando: "said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by Bulent Yildirim, the director of the Turkish aid organization I.H.H., who said: “Murat, take him and make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.”

So, Mr. Akinan said, “I took him downstairs yelling, ‘Stop! No one will touch this man entrusted to me.’ ”

He added: “I called the doctor on board and asked him for treatment. Two more soldiers came. People were reacting. I had all three treated. I said to two to three wise people around me that we would not allow anyone to touch them.”

According to Mr. Akinan, during his subsequent interrogation in Israeli custody, he was shown a photograph in which the soldier he was leading inside the ship was hit despite his efforts.

“I told them that I couldn’t stop everyone”.

When the hostages turned into a liability, Yildirim tried to negotiate a ceasefire. But when that failed, he quickly realized he had better treat the captured commandos a lot nicer. Starting with a fast trip to the doctor.

Here's how the Turks treated their captives at first:

Alexandra Lort-Phillips, 37, an activist from Hackney: described seeing an Israeli soldier taken down into the stairwell below the deck where the soldiers landed.

“I went down the stairwell and there was a massive crowd of people and lots of shouting,” she said, after being deported to Istanbul.

“They had got a soldier who had boarded the ship from the roof. There was a sense of ‘My god, we’ve got an Israeli soldier’. I don’t think we really knew what we were going to do.”

“I saw a gun being taken. His gunbelt was removed and someone, I don’t know who, ran past me with the weapon and disappeared. They could have shot him but didn’t.” She said around 25 people were gathered around the soldier, who was held by his legs and stripped to his underwear as he was restrained.

Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter, Gulf News: "...I learned that two Israeli soldiers had been disarmed and held captive.

I felt a sense of euphoria upon realizing how big a news story this would be, but then had a sense of reality and realized that events on the boat had taken a horrible turn.

As I saw angry activists drag one of the Israeli soldiers down the stairs and punch him, lost my journalistic objectivity and found myself urging the activist to stop hitting the soldier. Seeing the anger in the activist's eyes, I thought that he would kill him."

(Part 2 tomorrow...)

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