Tuesday, June 1

Gaza aid convoy killings: “Those responsible must be held criminally accountable”

Richard Falk (UN Rapporteur for Palestine)

This incident should serve as a wakeup call for a complicit international community. There are three political imperatives that need to emerge with a sense of urgency: condemnation of the Israeli attack and an accompanying demand for the immediate end of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, appropriately by a decision in the UN Security Council; an authoritative launching of an investigation of war crimes allegations against Israel by the International Criminal Court; the widest possible endorsement and strengthening of the already growing worldwide boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign directed at Israel’s occupation policies in Palestinian Territories.he UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian
Territories, Richard Falk, urged Monday the international community to
bring to justice those responsible for the killing of some 16 unarmed
peace activist, when Israeli armed commandos stormed a convoy of ships
carrying aid to Gaza.

“Israel is guilty of shocking behavior by using deadly weapons against
unarmed civilians on ships that were situated in the high seas where
freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas,” Mr. Falk
said. “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless
and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders,
be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts.”

There are confirmed reports of lethal interference by Israeli military
units on the high seas with the Freedom Flotilla of six ships carrying
some 10,000 tons of medicine, food, and building materials to the civilian
population of Gaza. Preliminary reports suggest as many as 16 unarmed
activists were killed, and dozens more wounded.

“This peaceful humanitarian initiative by citizens from 50 countries is an
urgent response to the continuation of an unlawful blockade that has been
maintained for almost three years causing great physical and mental harm
to the whole of the 1.5 million people entrapped within Gaza,” the UN
independent expert said. “Such a massive form of collective punishment is
a crime against humanity, as well as a gross violation of the prohibition
on collective punishment in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

“As Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, familiar
with the suffering of the people of Gaza, I find this latest instance of
Israeli military lawlessness to create a situation of regional and global
emergency. Unless prompt and decisive action is taken to challenge the
Israeli approach to Gaza all of us will be complicit in criminal policies
that are challenging the survival of an entire beleaguered community.”

Mr. Falk urged the world community “to take urgent action in response to
this flagrant flouting of international law. It is time to insist on the
end of the blockade of Gaza. The worldwide campaign of boycott,
divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political
imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere.”

Richard Falk , Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and author of “Crimes of War: Iraq” and “The Costs of War: International Law, the UN, and World Order after Iraq” Also, current UN Rapporteur for Palestine.

Navy attacks six vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid to blockaded Strips. According to unofficial reports, at least two people killed, dozens injured. IDF soldier stabbed on board. Some p of injured evacuated on boats, helicopters; Israeli hospitals prepared
Roee Nahmias

At least 14 people were killed and 50 were injured early Monday as the Israeli Navy took over the ships taking part in the aid sail to Gaza, Arab and Turkish media reported.

An IDF soldier was moderately injured during the raid after being stabbed in the stomach. Three injured people were evacuated by helicopter to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

According to an IDF source, "The sail's participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces' arrival."

he NTV network has been broadcasting images oTf injured passengers on board one of the ships since the morning hours. Some were evacuated on boats and helicopters.

The al-Jazeera network reported that hundreds of soldiers took over the vessels taking part in the sail simultaneously.

According to a reporter on one of the ships, the Israel Defense Forces raided all vessels from the sea and air at the same time and informed all of the passengers that they were under arrest.

The Israeli vessels, the report said, attacked the flotilla in international waters with aerial reinforcement, using gas. A Qatari television channel broadcast live the dramatic images from the ships, with Hamas spokespeople giving interviews and vowing to punish Israel for "the new crime".

One of injured evacuated to Haifa hospital (Photo: Shai Vaknin)

The images showed Commando soldiers with their faces covered. A fighter in uniform, wearing a gas mask, tried to block the camera with his hand, while more and more troops raided the ship after sliding down from a helicopter using a rope.

The NTV network showed Commando fighters hanging down from ropes onto the ships' decks. One of the images showed a military doctor treating one of the injured.

At around 4 am, the live broadcast from one of the six ships was disconnected. The broadcast was resumed an hour later and the ship began calling out for help and announced to the Navy that there were injured people aboard.

Passengers: Don't attack us

One of the passengers on the ship called out to the Navy vessels, "Don't attack us. We are unarmed civilians. There are injured people onboard."

The calls were first made in English, and were later joined by Knesset Member Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who called out to the ships in Hebrew.

Senior Hamas member Ismail Raduan responded to the IDF takeover on the vessels sailing to Gaza, saying that "this is state-sponsored organized terror. We are calling on the international community to do something.

"These are crimes against humanity and against our Palestinian people. We call on all members the Arab and Muslim people to launch protests of rage of solidarity."

Three Israeli naval craft left a Haifa naval base just after 9 pm on Sunday and approached the "Freedom Flotilla" after dark, according to the Twitter page of Free Gaza, one organization participating in the flotilla.

Two hours later, Israel Radio broadcast a recording of one of the missile boats warning the flotilla, which is carrying humanitarian aid and pro-Palestinian activists, not to approach Gaza.

"If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade," the radio message continued.

The six-ship convoy carrying aid for Palestinians set sail for Gaza Sunday afternoon in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the impoverished territory and warnings that it would be intercepted. The ships, led by a Turkish vessel with 600 people on board, departed from international waters off Cyprus.

Ali Waked, Shmulik Grossman and Ahiya Raved contributed to this report

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