Israel faces backlash over flotilla raid
Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Amanda Hoh | Chief Editors
Update – Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Thousands of Australians gathered in capital cities last night to protest against the Israeli attack on a flotilla of boats on its way to Gaza on Monday.
Israel forces and pro-Palestinians clashed violently on the leading Turkish vessel killing at least 10 civilians and injuring around thirty more.
Federal Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith confirmed yesterday that an Australian man had been shot in the leg and was treated in hospital following the incident.
“We don’t have any information that any other Australians have been caught up either injured or killed at this stage,” Mr Smith told ABC Radio.
“But we do need to proceed very calmly, there’s always claim and counter-claim.”
Israel has responded to the international criticism, saying that pro-Palestinian supports attacked the commandos with weapons during the raid and that the act was premeditated.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted Reportage Online directly this morning.
“Weapons were found on the flotilla, numerous warnings given to the organizers of the flotilla.”
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “A regrettable incident occurred, during which people were killed and others were injured. IDF [Israel Defence Force} soldiers who were compelled to defend their lives were also injured."
At a press conference, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon said, "Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome. We repeatedly called upon the organisers and all those who were associated with them, through diplomatic channels and any other means we could, to stop this provocation.
"The so-called humanitarian aid was not for a humanitarian purpose. Had it been for a humanitarian purpose, they would have accepted our offer to deliver all humanitarian supply through the appropriate channels which are used."
However, Israel is also facing criticism over the commando raid from the Australian government and non-government organisations.
In a press release today, Marc Purcell, Executive Director of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) said, “As a priority, the Australian Government must call for the immediate and full lifting of the Gaza blockade, and take action to ensure this outcome.
“Previous calls for ‘easing’ of the blockade have obviously failed and what is needed now are greater collective efforts to get a better humanitarian outcome for the people of Gaza.”
Two Sydney Morning Herald journalists, Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty are still being detained by Israeli authorities.
As published on Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Peter Fray, said that McGeough and Geraghty were reporting from the vessel, MV Samoud, which was part of a "freedom flotilla" carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza when it was attacked by Israeli commandos.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Fray said that both journalist and photographer were safe and are now being held in Beersheva.
He said that they have had no communication with the journalists since 11.53am AEST yesterday but have been assured by Israeli authorities that they are being treated well.
After the boat was intercepted, Fray said the pair were taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod overnight Australian time where they declined to be immediately deported.
“The Sydney Morning Herald stands for the highest quality journalism… Part of our role is to bear witness,” said Fray.
“Paul, an acknowledged authority on the Middle East, and Kate, one of the country’s finest news photographers, were there as witnesses, to bring the story of the flotilla to Australia and to the rest of the world.
“They had every right to do so. We ask that Israel respect their right to do their jobs. We also ask for the return of our equipment and footage of the Israeli intervention.”
The Sydney Morning Herald expects Geraghty, an Australian and McGeough, who is travelling on an Irish passport, will have access to Australian and Irish consulates overnight Australian time.
Earlier today, addressing the media before Question Time, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, condemned Israel’s use of force during the flotilla raid in Gaza.
“The Australian government condemns any use of violence under the sorts of circumstances that we have seen. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the loss of life which has occurred.
“It is imperative that the government of Israel conduct its own immediate, independent inquiry as to what happened.
“When it comes to a blockade against Gaza, preventing the supply of humanitarian aid, such a blockade should be removed.”
Rudd has called for an immediate inquiry to be undertaken by Israeli authorities and for the results to be presented to the United Nations Security Council.
Protests calling for immediate action over Israel’s use of force against the Gaza Freedom flotilla were held all over the nation tonight.
In Sydney, hundreds of protestors united with the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine at Town Hall in the city centre.
After hearing about yesterday’s flotilla attack, Rachel Evans decided to join the protest.
“It was was really important for all of us to come out and show solidarity and say, we support the flotilla, we support Gaza and the siege on Gaza and down, down Israel. [It's] very important and I’m so happy to see that [the] whole Arabic community [is] here.
“We want the government, the Australian government to break all ties, diplomatic and military ties, with… the brutal Israel government. The murderous Israel Government that is contravening international law and brutalising the people of Palestine.”
Check back for more updates from Reportage Online.