This one makes no sense. These activists are being treated worse than Somali Pirates.
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Israel is going to spin the hell out of this – but the simple fact is, a bunch of folks armed with clubs is no match for Israeli Special Forces armed to the teeth.
What the heck ever happened to firing a shot across the bow – or the liberal use of water cannons?
And this was in International waters, which makes it an act of piracy.
Israeli naval ships seized control of a protest flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 10 people and sparking widespread international condemnation.
Israeli television, citing foreign media reports, said the death toll could be as high as 16.
“The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel’s Army Radio.
The raid set off a storm of international protest and drew condemnations from leaders of Spain, Sweden, France, Germany, the U.N., the European Union and Arab League.
But after some initial expressions of regret, Israeli officials Monday came out strongly in defense of the raid, characterizing the protesters as hard-core extremists who had prepared an ambush for soldiers.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the flotilla an “armada of hate and violence” that launched a “premeditated and outrageous provocation.” He said Israeli soldiers found evidence that “weapons” had been prepared in advance, but he did not specify whether those weapons included guns.
Israel’s military said protesters managed to grab two guns from Israeli soldiers and use them against the commandos, prompting soldiers to return fire.
Greta Berlin, leader of Free Gaza, one of the flotilla’s organizers, called those claims “absurd.”
“This was murder,” Berlin said in a telephone interview from Cyprus.
The six-vessel flotilla, packed with hundreds of international activists, food and other humanitarian supplies, had left Cyprus on Sunday night in an attempt to break Israel’s longstanding blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel had vowed to intercept the boats, by force if necessary, and tow them to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where passengers would be arrested or deported.
According to an Israeli commando, speaking on condition of anonymity, he and other Israeli soldiers who rappelled onto the boat from a helicopter were immediately attacked by about 30 people on board.
“They beat us up with metal sticks and knives,” he said. “There was live fire at some point against us. … They were shooting at us from below deck.”
He said activists tossed some of the soldiers from the top deck to the lower deck and the soldiers jumped in the water to save themselves. Activists grabbed some soldiers and tried to hold them hostage, stripping them of their helmets and equipment, he said.
Ten Israeli soldiers were wounded, two seriously, the military said.
Protest organizers said the nighttime raid on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s largest vessel with 600 passengers, occurred in international waters more than 40 miles off shore.
Video released by television crews onboard and a live Internet signal transmitted from the boat show armed and masked Israeli soldiers rappelling from helicopters onto the boat and being attacked by passengers with iron clubs.
Berlin said the activists were acting in self-defense after soldiers opened fire.
“People had the right to defend themselves against soldiers armed with machine guns,” she said in a telephone interview from Cyprus. The group had been unable to reach passengers since the attack occurred because the Israeli military had blocked telephone signals, she said. “They can spin it any way they want. We’re the civilians, and they are the military.”