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Flotilla Aims to Break Israel's Grip on Gaza

Published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by The Sydney Morning Herald Flotilla Aims to Break Israel's Grip on Gaza

by Paul McGeough

AGIOS NIKOLAOS, Greece - A global coalition of Palestinian support groups is taking protest to a dangerous new point of brinkmanship this week, with an attempt to crash through Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in a flotilla of cargo and passenger boats now assembling in the eastern Mediterranean.

[Image: freedomflotilla.jpg]Pro-Palestinian activists waving Turkish and Palestinian flags gather at the Sarayburnu port to send off Mavi Marmara cruise ship in Istanbul May 22, 2010. (REUTERS/Emrah Dalkaya)

Converging at an undisclosed rendezvous in international waters, the four small cargo boats and four passenger vessels - ranging from cruisers carrying 20 to a Turkish passenger ferry for 600 - are a multimillion-dollar bid to shame the international community to use ships to circumvent Israel's tight control on humanitarian supplies reaching war-ravaged Gaza.

As the first boat in the flotilla sailed from Dundalk, Ireland, to link up with others being readied at ports in Turkey and in Greece, Israel announced that it would bar the boats from landing.

A senior foreign ministry official described the flotilla as a ''provocation and a breach of Israeli law''.

Israeli media reports say that the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has formally ordered that waters off Gaza become a closed zone to a distance of 20 nautical miles.

Israel already has a ''large naval force'' on manoeuvre in the area; and as a confrontation at sea looms, suspicion was taking hold in both camps.
Mechanical difficulties in the boat bound from Ireland - the 1200-tonne MV Rachel Corrie, named after an American who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 - prompted claims that the boat had been sabotaged. Unnamed Israeli officials have claimed elements in the flotilla would attempt to garner media attention by seeking to provoke Israeli violence.

Further complicating a tense scenario were reports of a welcome fleet of small boats attempting to put to sea from Gaza, and of an Israeli ''counter flotilla'' that had assembled near Tel Aviv as a "civil initiative ... not connected to any political group''.

Israel has rejected pleas by several ambassadors, most vocally by Dublin's envoy to Tel Aviv, that their nationals on the flotilla be given safe passage to Gaza.

In the port of Agios Nikolaos, here on the Greek island of Crete, one of the lead organisers of the flotilla is the Free Gaza Movement's Renee Jaouadi - a 34-year-old schoolteacher, formerly from Newcastle, NSW. Under the banner of the Freedom Flotilla, the protest is a $US3 million-plus ($3.6 million) operation. Apart from 10,000 tonnes of building, medical, educational and other supplies, on board are dozens of parliamentarians from around the world and professionals planning to offer their services in Gaza.

Celebrity names include the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator who in 1998 resigned, protesting that economic sanctions on Iraq amounted to genocide.

On Saturday evening, attempts were under way to find a berth on the over-subscribed manifest for the activist American philosopher Noam Chomsky, who Israeli authorities last week barred from entering the West Bank where he had been invited to speak at a Palestinian university.

Five of eight previous protest boats have managed to land in Gaza. But most recently one was rammed at sea by an Israeli navy ship, and another was captured, with all on board being held in Israeli jails for up to a week before they were deported.

This is deliberately their biggest operation. Ms Jaouadi said the number of vessels and passengers in this week's flotilla was intended to overstretch the capacity of Israel's navy and, in the event of mass arrests, the capacity of its prisons.

"It is perfectly logical to go in by sea when entry by land and air is closed," she said. "We are ordinary civilians doing what governments and big NGOs are refusing to do. The UN is always complaining that it can't get supplies through: why is it not sending ships?"

Ms Jaouadi, who was deported from Israel in 2008, rejected a suggestion that the flotilla would be construed as support for terrorism because Gaza remains under the control of Hamas. Instead, she argued that MPs and others on board "had to see how hard it is to get a bag of cement to build a school, so that kids can be educated; and to fix a hospital, so that mothers don't have to have their babies in tents".

If the flotilla can reach Gaza, shipboard clinics will be operating from some of the vessels, using an on-board dental chair, blood-collecting machines and hospital beds. The building materials manifest includes 500 tonnes of cement, prefabricated homes, water filtration equipment and generators.
"We are supplying basic needs of a population of 1.5 million, half of whom are under voting age," Ms Jaouadi said. "Why are they being collectively punished for a political situation over which they have no power and had no say?"

But as an Israeli commentator dismissed the flotilla as a "ragtag armada of rust buckets loaded with international 'peace' activists", the Israeli government sought to play down the effectiveness of the 10,000-tonne cargo it might deliver, claiming that in the past week it had allowed more than 14,000 tonnes of supplies into the Gaza Strip.

"I suspect this time the Israelis are very determined to stop us," Ms Jaouadi said. "With the first boats they figured there would be less media attention if they let us in. But now they see us revealing that ships are the answer."

Copyright © 2010 Fairfax Media
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller

Published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by Gaza, Here We Come to Break the Siege

by Ann Wright

I am honored to be a part of the latest international citizen effort to break the Israeli and Egyptian governments' siege of Gaza. This week, hundreds of persons from 20 countries will challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in an eight ship flotilla.

An international coalition composed of Free Gaza Movement, European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, the Malaysian humanitarian organization Perdana and the Turkish non-governmental organization Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH) is sending three cargo ships and five passenger vessels to Gaza from Ireland, Greece and Turkey.

While the citizens mobilize, their governments are receiving intense diplomatic pressure from the Israeli government. On Monday, May 17, 2010, Naor Gilon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy director general, told the ambassadors of Greece, Ireland, Turkey, and Sweden that the attempt to break Israel's blockage Gaza " is a provocation and a breach of Israeli law," and that "Israel has no intention of allowing the flotilla to enter Gaza," according to a ministry statement.

Arabic-language news station Al-Hurra reported that "about half of the Israeli naval forces will participate in an operation that was approved by the cabinet" and that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will supervise the operation. Israel will prevent the boats from reaching Gaza "at any price," an Israeli security source told the Ma'an news agency.

Three ships are leaving Turkey, including a 600 person passenger ship and two cargo ships filled with humanitarian supplies such as medical equipment, pre-fabricated homes and construction supplies to rebuild housing for 50,000 persons destroyed in the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza in December, 2008 and January, 2009. The passenger ship left Istanbul on May 22 to a tremendous send-off from thousands of supporters!

Two ships will depart the Athens, Greece port of Piraeus and two more ships will depart from the Greek island of Crete. The cargo ship Rachel Corrie, purchased by Perdana, the Malaysian humanitarian organization, loaded with medical supplies and cement, is on its way from Ireland and will meet up with the flotilla off the coast of Gaza. The ship is named for activist Rachel Corrie who was run over and killed by the Israeli military driver of a huge Caterpillar bulldozer that was knocking down homes of Palestinian families in Rafah, Gaza in March, 2003.

I am in Athens, Greece to assist in the briefings for passengers and crew on the two ships departing from Piraeus and then will fly to Crete to board a Free Gaza ship to sail to Gaza.

Free Gaza has attempted to sail 8 ships into the Gaza port in the past two years. Five ships have gotten into Gaza and three have been forced back by the Israeli navy including one ship that was rammed and almost sunk by an Israeli patrol boat.

An incredible amount of work is taking place in the port of Gaza. Workers are digging out the area along the pier in anticipation of the arrival of the cargo ships. No cargo ships have been unloaded in Gaza in 43 years since the port was closed by the Israelis after the 1967 war.

As the flotilla leaves Greece and heads across the Mediterranean to Gaza, please follow the historic flotilla by a live-feed link that will broadcast live footage of this historic voyage.

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller

Join us as we travel to Gaza. Witness what happens on board the boats. Watch our videos everyday. Stay tuned for WitnessGaza.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
Good luck to 'em.

An Israeli counter-flotilla? That place just becomes crazier by the day.
Published on Thursday, May 27, 2010 by The Audacity of the Free Gaza Flotilla

Breaking the Israeli Siege of Gaza May Lead to an Attack at Sea, Detention Camps and Deportation

by Ann Wright

By the time you read this, we will be on the high seas of the Mediterranean (we hope the seas will not be too high).

Our two U.S. flagged Free Gaza boats, will join two other passenger ships, a 600 passenger ship from Turkey sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) and a 50 passenger ship from Athens sponsored by the European Campaign Against the Siege and the Greek/Swedish Ships to Gaza campaign, to sail to the shores of Gaza to break the Israeli naval blockade of the 1.5 million citizens in Gaza.

Four cargo ships from Ireland, Greece, Algeria and Turkey, will carry a total of 10,000 tons or 2 million pounds of construction materials for the housing of 50,000 made homeless during the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440 Palestinians and wounded 5,000.

Many of us would like to see our boat renamed "The Audacity of Hope" as that is what we want to see from the Obama administration-- courage to challenge the Israeli government on the siege of Gaza. It would be a really brave, bold move as every U.S. presidential administration since the formation of the State of Israeli in 1948 has blindly given free-rein to Israel in whatever actions it wishes to undertake no matter if the actions are a violation of international law. The carte blanche given to Israel by the United States has been dangerous for Israel's national security as well as for the national security of the United States.

Probable reaction of Israeli Navy Ships-Bow shots, ramming or boarding
In less than 48 hours, the Israeli Navy will probably fire U.S. made ammunition and rockets in international waters over the bows of two U.S. flagged boats and one Greek boat with U.S. citizens aboard as well as citizens from 13 other countries and over the bows of the Turkish 600 passenger ship.

Ironically, on one passenger ship will be Joe Meaders, a U.S. citizen who is a survivor of the Israeli air and naval attack on a United States Navy ship, the USS Liberty, in 1967 killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 173. The Israeli government has never acknowledged, much less apologized for, the deaths of these sailors, nor the destruction of the USS Liberty.

According to Israeli media, the Israeli military is preparing for our arrival off the shores of Gaza. The Israeli navy has been practicing its plan for preventing us from docking in Gaza, a plan that probably includes demanding by radio that the ships change course away from Gaza, firing weapons in front of the ships, ramming the ships and sending well-armed boarding parties onto the ships.

Israelis prepare a detention camp
As our 8 ship flotilla prepares to depart Greece and Turkey to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, the Israeli military is preparing a detention camp for the flotilla's 700 delegates from 20 countries who are passengers on four of the ships.

Those passengers include Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old holocaust survivor, Parliamentarians from Germany and Ireland, two former diplomats from the United States, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, authors, journalists, activists, businesspersons and clergy.

Additionally, the military has identified a warehouse in the Ashelod area, just over Gaza's northern border that will be used to detain the 700 passengers on the 8 ships.

Taking a page from the New York City police who put over 1500 persons into a filthy, unclean warehouse on a pier in New York City during the 2004 Republican convention, the Israeli government no doubt will make the surroundings as difficult as possible for us.

The Israeli government has extensive experience in warehousing dissent, as over 10,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails and prisons, including juveniles who are arrested regularly in nighttime raids in villages of the West Bank.

20 passengers on the May, 2009 Free Gaza boat trying to break the siege were imprisoned for 10 days before they were deported from Israel. They included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Wish us luck as we challenge the Israeli, Egyptian, European Union and United State's unlawful siege and collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza!
What will you do to help break the siege of Gaza?

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
Oh, my...I wish them well...but fear they will be arrested, at best and some killed, if Israel acts like its normal (sic) self of late.

I heard a very interesting documentary recently on Israel and South Africa. It contained a lesson we all should learn - no country - no matter how good, evil or mixed - is unchanging or unchangeable. In its early days the Israeli leaders were totally opposed to Apartheid S.A., then later [won't go into the motivations, changes of players, forces, deep politics, et al.] Israel become S.A.s best friend [after the USA] and then, in the end, its ONLY friend!....and of course it gave S.A. it's nukes and lots of other rockets and weapons [as did the USA].

May things change once again in Israel and in my own land..... one can only hope and fight for such change. Criticism is warrantedConfusedtupido: for both [and other] countries...but fighting for sane changes is more noble. I know we Plebs are up against very powerful forces, but we have nothing to loose but our [and other's] chains....... Confusedtupido:
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Published on Friday, May 28, 2010 by Free Gaza Flotilla Subject to Coordinated Israeli Government Media Campaign and Military Action

by James Marc Leas

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post [1] on May 25, 2010, the Israeli "Navy is preparing an operational plan to stop the flotilla of nine ships-loaded with hundreds of international activists and thousands of tons of supplies-- which are scheduled to try and break the sea blockade on Gaza by anchoring in the newly-expanded port later this week." The article describes a military campaign coordinated with a major media campaign.

The web edition of the largest circulation paper in Israel, YNET, reports that "Israel is also preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state's [Israel's] already floundering reputation." [2] According to the article, "Foreign Ministry, IDF, and PR spokespersons are preparing interviews for global news agencies in order to explain Israel's position, mainly that the flotilla serves the terror organization ruling Gaza and not its residents."

The 700 human rights workers on the nine boats of the International Freedom Flotilla come from 40 countries [3] and include 35 members of parliament from 15 different countries [4]. The humanitarian aid includes medical supplies, such as wheel chairs and medicine, toys for children, pencils, and building supplies, ranging from bags of cement to pre-fabricated homes.

According to the Jerusalem Post article, in preparation for the military campaign the Israeli Defense Force "has established a joint taskforce together with the Israel Police, the Foreign Ministry and the Prisons Service to coordinate efforts to stop the flotilla and manage the potential media fallout."

The Jerusalem Post article also describes the basic elements of the Israeli government media campaign, "to stress that the supplies the ships are carrying are unnecessary and that Israel - together with various international organizations - already transfers these supplies to Gaza via land crossings."

The article then gives the Israeli government talking points of its media campaign:
  • "Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that existing land crossings were more than capable of meeting Gaza's needs;" that "15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week;" and that "building materials are allowed in when monitored by international organizations who ensure that the materials will not be commandeered by Hamas for the fortification of bunkers."
  • Citing a story in the Financial Times, the article says that the 200 to 300 smuggling tunnels from Egypt into Gaza "have become so efficient that shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods."
Contradicting the Foreign Ministry spokesman, a United Nations report says says the "Livelihoods and lives of people living in the Gaza Strip have been devastated by over 1000 days of near complete blockade." [5]
Also contradicting, a May 23, 2010 article on the Israeli YNET, "UN says Gaza blockade hinders reconstruction aid," [6] says "Most of the property and infrastructure damaged in Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip was still unrepaired 12 months later and aid efforts have been largely ineffective, a UN report said Sunday." The article goes on to quote from a UN report that says "In view of the scale of the needs, international assistance in Gaza is tantamount to tinkering at the edges."
Also contradicting, a January 20, 2010 World Health Organization fact sheet [7] states that
The lack of building materials is affecting essential health facilities: the new surgical wing in Gaza's main Shifa hospital has remained unfinished since 2006. Hospitals and primary care facilities, damaged during operation ‘Cast Lead', have not been rebuilt because construction materials are not allowed into Gaza.
Furthermore, if tunnels are so efficient and food and building material so widely and cheaply available in Gaza as the Israeli government says, then the blockade is not working anyway. So why is Israel continuing the blockade, including threatening the flotilla?

Furthermore, the Israeli government has not backed up its far-fetched claim of tunnel efficiency by building its own tunnels to replace its traditional land, sea, and air import and export means.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev was quoted in the article smearing the human rights activists saying "they are the opposite" for failing "to say anything about human rights of Israeli civilians who have been on the receiving end of Hamas rockets for years."
However, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs own website "One Month of Calm Along the Israel-Gaza Border." [8] provides evidence that Israel successfully stopped rocket fire on June 19, 2008 with an Egyptian brokered ceasefire. Then the Israeli military launched an attack on Gaza on November 4, 2008 ending that ceasefire. Then, according to another Ministry of Foreign Affairs website [9], during the Israeli government's 22 day Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza that started on December 27, 2008, 776 rockets and mortars landed in Israeli territory, a doubling of the intensity of rocket fire from Gaza from the previous peak, until a new cease fire was announced on January 18. Thus, it was Israeli government action that belies its supposed concern about the safety of Israeli civilians. [10]
  • Regev also condemned the activists for failing to say anything about "the human rights of Palestinians who live in Gaza under the jackboots of the Hamas regime that oppresses women, Christians, and gays - a regime that has brutally suppressed all political opposition, destroyed independent media, closed down internet cafés, and has even made it illegal for a male hairdresser to cut the hair of a woman."
However, if the Israeli government is concerned about jackboots of a regime, why does the Israeli government suppress civil liberties of Israeli human rights organizations, as described in a New York Times article, "Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege," [11] published on April 5? One could well ask about the jackboots of the Israeli occupation of Palestine that includes targeted assassinations, detention without trial, torture, demolishing houses, bombing civilian neighborhoods, destroying civilian infrastructure and siege on a defenseless civilian population in Gaza.
  • Palmer also charged that organizers of the flotilla "are less interested in bringing in aid than in promoting their radical agenda, playing into the hands of Hamas provocations. While they have wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid."
If it were true that the purpose of the human rights workers is to score political points why does the Israeli government play into their hands by engaging in a blockade that involves the illegal collective punishment of the entire civilian population of Gaza? Collective punishment puts Israeli government political and military leaders in breach of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention [12].

Any attack on the ships of the International Freedom Flotilla could also put Israeli government officials in violation of several articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part VII [13]:
article 87(a) provides for "freedom of navigation."
article 88, states, "The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes."
article 89 states, "No State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty."
article 90 states, "Every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas"
By failing to defend the high seas from Israeli-government piracy other governments and the UN are acquiescing to degradation of international law regarding the freedom of navigation.

Defend the International Freedom Flotilla

As Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University [14] said, "by now it has been demonstrated that neither governments nor the UN will challenge this blockade, only people of conscience and courage will." Support demonstrations are taking place in cities around the world demanding action from the US government and the UN to defend free passage in international waters and to end the illegal siege of Gaza.

Readers can track the flotilla, click links to latest news, and find a list of emergency response plan actions that they can take at [15]
James Marc Leas is a Jewish patent lawyer who is a co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. He participated in the NLG delegation to Gaza in February, 2009. [16]
[1] "Fate of Gaza flotilla remains vague," Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2010.
[2] "Gaza activists: Israel to put us in concentration camp," YNET, May 28, 2010
[3] "Israel's Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla," By Gaza Freedom Flotilla, May 28, 2010
[5] "Farming without Land, Fishing without Water: Gaza Agriculture Sector Struggles to Survive," UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs fact sheet, May 25, 2010
[6]"UN says Gaza blockade hinders reconstruction aid," YNET, May 23, 2010
[7] World Health Organization fact sheet, January 20, 2010
[8] "One Month of Calm Along the Israel-Gaza Border" Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website 27 July 2008.
[9] "Operation Cast Lead: Israel strikes back against Hamas terror in Gaza," 21 Jan 2009
[10] Further details about the ceasefire and rockets can be found in an article, "Israeli Government Contradicts its Own ‘Self-Defense' Argument" by the present author.
[11] "Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege," New York Times, April 5, 2010
[12] Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, International Committee of the Red Cross
[13] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part VII
[14] Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University
[15] Gaza Freedom March,
[16] "Onslaught, Israel's attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law," Report of the National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza in February 2009.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
Holy crap.
US activist loses eye after being shot in face with tear gas canister
Posted on: May 31, 2010 | ShareThis
International Solidarity Movement
31 May 2010

[Image: Ramallah05May31-fadi-400x293.jpg]

US citizen Emily Henochowicz was shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister as she non-violently demonstrated against the Flotilla massacre


American activist loses eye after being shot in face with tear gas canister
31 May 2010: An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel’s murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.

21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.

“They clearly saw us,” said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. “They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.”

Henochowicz is an art student at the prestigious Cooper Union, located in East Village, Manhattan.

The demonstration was one of many that took place across the West Bank today in outrage over the Israeli military’s attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla and blatant violation of international law. Demonstrations also took place in inside Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem, with clashes occurring in East Jerusalem and Palestinian shopkeepers in the occupied Old City closing their businesses for the day in protest.

[Image: DSC_1099-400x265.jpg]

Henochowicz lost her left eye after being shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister

Tear gas canisters are commonly used against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. In May 2009, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office ordered Israeli Police to review its guidelines for dispersing demonstrators, following the death of a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahmah from Bil’in village, caused by a high velocity tear-gas projectile. Tear-gas canisters are meant to be used as a means of crowd dispersal, to be shot indirectly at demonstrators and from a distance. However, Israeli forces frequently shoot canisters directly at protesters and are not bound by a particular distance from which they can shoot.

Israeli occupation forces boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships on the Freedom Flotilla at 5 a.m. this morning, opening fire on the hundreds of unarmed civilians aboard. No-one aboard the ships were carrying weapons of any kind, including for defense against a feared Israeli attack in international waters. At least 9 aid workers aboard the ship have been confirmed dead, with dozens more injured. The assault took place 70 miles off the Gaza coast in international waters, after the flotilla was surrounded by three Israeli warships. The Freedom Flotilla, carrying 700 human rights activists from over 40 countries and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, was headed for the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade on Gaza, combined with the illegal buffer zone, has put a stranglehold on the territory. 42% of Gazans are unemployed, and food insecurity hovers around 60% according to figures from the Palestine Centre for Human Rights.
God speed Rachel Corrie and the brave souls on board.

Page last updated at 20:43 GMT, Friday, 4 June 2010 21:43 UK

[Image: _47970286_009422924-1.jpg]
Mairead Maguire is one of five Irish people onboard the MV Rachel Corrie

The Irish aid ship, the Rachel Corrie is less than 100 miles from Gaza, but Israel's foreign minister has said it will not be allowed to dock there.
Nine activists died on Monday when Israeli commandos stormed another vessel in the convoy.

Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire said they are due to reach the Hamas controlled enclave at 0600 BST UK time.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said the ship should be allowed to proceed to Gaza.

"Those on board the Rachel Corrie have made clear their peaceful intentions and have stated that they will offer no resistance to Israeli forces.

"Based on these assurances, there can be no justification for the use of force against any person on board."

Mr Martin said he had reached agreement with the Israeli government to allow the vessel dock in the Israeli port of Ashdod, but it is believed that the activists declined the offer.

On Friday, crew member Jenny Graham said they remained determined to dock in Gaza.

"With regard to the suggestion that we have been negotiating with Israel about docking in Ashdod, again this is untrue.

"The Israelis have not been in contact with us. We remain as committed as ever to getting our 1,000 tonnes of aid and supplies to the people of Gaza," she said.

On Friday the Northern Ireland Assembly held an emergency debate to discuss Israel's storming of the aid flotilla bound for Gaza.
MLAs debated a motion calling on Israel to end the blockade and allow safe passage for the Irish ship, Rachel Corrie.

The debate ended after a petition of concern was presented by Unionists. A vote will be taken on Monday.


The emergency debate was supported by at least 30 MLAs, the number required before the assembly can be recalled in this way.

Gerry McHugh, who was one of the two Independent Assembly members who had forced the debate, said.

"A great many Israelis want peace, but it is the inconsiderate actions of the present government, seemingly determined to pursue a path of confrontation which is making this prospect more distant.

"We know from our own history that dialogue and discussion leads to a more sustainable and advantageous outcome in the long run," Mr McHugh added.

"If there is any part of the world that can show how compromise can change hearts and minds, it is here."

However, the DUP's William Irwin said it was "nothing more than a publicity stunt".

"The situation in Gaza was raised in the assembly chamber on Tuesday and there is absolutely no need for another separate debate to be called on a day when the assembly is not even sitting," he said.

"At a time when we are facing massive cuts in public spending there are a huge range of more important issues which should be concerning public representatives in Northern Ireland."

Nine civilian activists were killed after armed forces boarded the largest vessel carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday.

The activists were attempting to defy a blockade imposed by Israel after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007.

Organisers of the flotilla said at least 30 people were wounded in the incident. Israel says 10 of its soldiers were injured, one seriously.

Israel had repeatedly said it would stop the boats, calling the campaign a "provocation intended to delegitimise Israel".

It said it allows about 15,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza every week.
Unconfirmed report that the Rachel Corrie has warships either side of her.

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