BACKGROUND ON FLOTILLA INCIDENT
As many of you may be aware, a major confrontation took place off Israel’s coast earlier today. We wanted to bring you the most up-to-date information from JFNA’s Israel office, for your background. We have summarized the major points below. This is followed by additional facts and links to other important materials on this incident.
* Early this morning (May 31), Israel Defense Forces naval forces intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
* The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod <http://lyris.ujcfedweb.org/t/5782020/32747279/26702/0/> , where they would be able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.
* During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel <http://lyris.ujcfedweb.org/t/5782020/32747279/26703/0/> with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
* According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.
* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.
* As a result of this life-threatening activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including, when they determined that their lives were in immediate danger, live fire. According to initial reports, these events resulted in over 10 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.
* A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are moderately wounded and the remainder sustained light injuries.
* All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.
* Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the boarding forces.
* The events are still unfolding. Israeli Naval commander, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom is overseeing the activities.
* In the coming hours, the ships will be directed to the Ashdod port, while IDF naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the people on board the ships and their equipment.
* The IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the naval blockade.
Other important facts:
* The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.
* The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.
* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of what they said was aid. Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.
* “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers.
* Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.
* Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too.
* Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.
* Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.
* No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.
* Earlier this week, Noam Shalit, father of Hamas-held Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, approached the flotilla’s organizers asking them to take supplies to Gilad. He was refused .
Here are additional resources for further background on this issue:
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon’s press conference on the flotilla incident:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s Statement: Activists Had Weapons:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement about the humanitarian situation in Gaza:
MFA legal expert Sarah Weiss Maudi explains why the flotilla was not allowed to dock at Gaza:
Legal Backgrounder on maritime law and other related issues, from MFA:
A fascinating Al-Jazeera report on the flotilla before they left that offers insight into who was on board. One says: “We are now waiting for one of two good things — either to achieve martyrdom or to reach Gaza:”
Video of a “peace activist” stabbing an Israeli soldier as he boards the boat:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Expresses Full Backing for the IDF:
Prime Minister Netanyahu today spoke by telephone with the relevant security ministers and officials, and was updated on the action and subsequent developments. In his discussions with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Minister Moshe Yaalon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and ISA Director Yuval Diskin, the Prime Minister issued security, diplomatic and information directives, reiterated his full backing for the IDF and inquired about the well-being of the wounded.
The National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau (NSCCTB) has released the following statement:
“In response to the events surrounding the protest flotilla, there are growing protests by the government and public in Turkey. At this stage, relatively quiet demonstrations are taking place around the Israeli Consulate General in Istanbul and the Israeli Embassy in Ankara. This delicate state of affairs is liable to deteriorate into violent outbreaks against Israelis in Turkey.
The NSCCTB’s recommendations are as follows:
Israelis due to leave for Turkey should – at this stage – refrain from travelling until the situation becomes clear.
Israelis currently in Turkey should remain in their places of residence, avoid city centers and sites in which demonstrations are being held, and monitor developments out of concern that the situation could worsen.