‘Freedom Flotilla’ Live Blog

May 31, 2010 4:53 a.m.

The latest developments on the overnight raid by Israeli commandos on the flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists trying to break the blockade of Gaza to bring in relief supplies:

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14:14 ET: President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke Monday morning by phone, after the Israeli raid.

13:31 ET: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cut short his trip to Chile to return home to Turkey.

13:28 ET: Netanyahu’s office: “The prime minister… reiterated his full backing for the Israeli Defense Forces and inquired about the well being of the wounded.”

12:45 ET: This al Jazeera report includes some of the footage of the raid aired on Turkish TV:

12:41 ET: Israeli Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer: “It’s going to be a big scandal, no doubt about it.”

12:21 ET: British Foreign Secretary William Hague: “There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.”

12:18 ET: Israeli police have arrested and jailed 16 pro-Palestinian activists from the flotilla after they refused to identify themselves upon arriving in port.

12:13 ET: CNN puts the death toll at 9, almost all of whom were Turks.

12:05 ET: In addition to the deaths, the total number of injured include 30 protesters and 10 Israeli commandos, according to the BBC.

11:19 ET: Video of the raid recorded and released by the IDF purporting to show the pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Mavi Marmara attacking Israeli commandos:

11:14 ET: AP: “Before the ships set sail from waters off Cyprus on Sunday, Israel had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade and offered to transfer some of the cargo to Gaza from an Israeli port, following a security inspection.”

11:04 ET: The UN Security Council will meet in New York at 1 p.m. ET.

10:58 ET: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told European diplomats “that the passengers on the ships are not freedom fighters, but terrorist supporters who fired at IDF soldiers as soon as the latter boarded the ships,” according to the foreign ministry.

10:55 ET: AFP:

Israel’s Channel 10 television and Al Jazeera both reported 19 dead, but the Israeli channel later revised that number down to 10. The Gaza branch of the IHH, a Turkish NGO involved with the flotilla, put the number of dead at 15, saying most of them were Turkish nationals.

10:54 ET: BBC: “Israel is towing the boats to the port of Ashdod and says it will deport the passengers from there. It says it will deliver the ships’ aid to Gaza.”

10:52 ET: NYT: “On Sunday, three Israeli Navy missile boats had left the Haifa naval base in northern Israel a few minutes after 9 p.m. local time, planning to intercept the flotilla.”

10:48 ET: BBC: “A leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, who was on board, was among those hurt.”

10:47 ET: Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev: “Unfortunately this group were dead-set on confrontation. Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100% clear.”

10:43 ET: The Israel military says the violence was limited to the lead boat in the flotilla, the Turkish passenger boat Mavi Marmara.

10:40 ET: More from AFP:

A senior Israeli military official told pool reporters on board a missile ship that formed part of the operation that the navy had prepared to meet them as “peace activists, not to fight.”

“This was not spontaneous. It was planned,” he said, displaying a box from the boat containing switchblades, slingshots, big metal balls and metal bats.

10:39 ET: AFP:

One of the commandos involved in the operation told reporters he was pounced on as soon as he reached the deck. “They beat us up with metal sticks and knives,” he said. “There was live fire at some point against us.”

He said a group of about 30 people, all speaking Arabic, had attacked the troops, who were beaten and had their weapons snatched.

Some were even tossed from the top deck to the lower deck, prompting them to jumped into the water to save themselves, he said.

10:34 ET: The raid happened about 40 miles (64 km) off the coast of Gaza, in international waters, according to the BBC.

10:31 ET: Al Jazeera: “The some 700 activists on board the flotilla included people from many different countries, including United States, Britain, Australia, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Algeria, Serbia, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Kuwait. The majority were Turkish.”

10:27 ET: Al Jazeera‘s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from onboard the lead ship in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, shortly after the raid:

10:16 ET: Reports on the death toll from the raid remain sketchy, with the Israeli military saying more than 10 dead and reports from Turkey saying 19 dead.

10:09 ET: Netanyahu’s office confirms that he has canceled Tuesday’s scheduled meeting in Washington with President Obama.

10:06 ET: Small protests of the Israeli action took place Monday in Amman, Sarajevo, Thessaloniki, and Karachi.

10:04 ET: WaPo: “Turkish flags flew high above Gaza’s port on Monday alongside posters with photos of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

10:03 ET: Reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels Tuesday trip to Washington to meet with President Obama.

10:02 ET: WaPo: “The wounded were evacuated to Israeli hospitals and the ships were being led into Israel’s Ashdod port, where the passengers and aid supplies are to be unloaded and screened.”

09:59 ET: Greta Berlin, leader of Free Gaza, one of the flotilla’s organizers, called Israeli claims that protesters grabbed the commandos’ guns “absurd“: “This was murder. They can spin it any way they want. We’re the civilians and they are the military.”

09:53 ET: LAT: “Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the flotilla an ‘armada of hate and violence.'”

09:42 ET: MSNBC: “Al-Jazeera TV reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain. The broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, ‘Everybody shut up!'”

09:41 ET: NBC: Eleven Americans were among the civilians aboard the ships, including a former ambassador and a former State Department official.

09:39 ET: The flotilla, comprised of 6 vessels with some 600 civilians aboard, rendezvoused in international waters off Cyprus on Sunday and set sail for Gaza, where it had been expected to arrive on Monday.

09:34 ET: From Reuters: “A Reuters cameraman on the Israeli navy ship Kidon close to the six-vessel aid convoy said commanders monitoring the operation were surprised by the strong resistance put up by the pro-Palestinian activists.”

09:30 ET: Signal jamming and Israeli military censorship make it difficult to independently verify what happened during the raid. Israel says its commandos came under attack while boarding, and opened fire in self-defense, with some commandos jumping overboard into the water to save themselves.

09:28 ET: Among the some 600 civilians thought to be aboard the vessels in the flotilla were 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland, and a Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.

09:26 ET: The Arab League called an emergency session for Tuesday to address the attack.

09:23 ET: Calling the raid “an inhuman act,” Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “All in all, these (actions) only bring closer the end of the miserable and false regime” in Israel.

09:20 ET: The U.N. Security Council could meet as soon as today to address the issue, diplomats told Reuters.

09:17 ET: Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc called Israel’s actions “piracy,” and Turkey canceled three joint military training exercises. Turkey, a member of the UN Security Council, also called for an emergency session of the council.

09:14 ET: Greece, Egypt, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned Israel’s ambassadors demanding explanations for the violence. Greece abruptly canceled a military exercise with Israel.

09:13 ET U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “I am shocked by reports of killing of people in boats carrying supply to Gaza. I heard the ships were in international water. That is very bad.”

09:11 ET: Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the Israeli raid a “war crime.”

09:09 ET: In Istanbul, 10,000 protesters marched from the Israeli consulate chanting: “Murderous Israel you will drown in the blood you shed!”

09:02 ET: In addition to the dead, the Israeli military said numerous activists and five soldiers were injured.

08:59 ET: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon blamed the activists for the violence. Israel said the activists fired guns at and wielded knives against the commandos as they boarded.

08:58 ET: In declaring three days of mourning for the dead, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “What Israel has committed on board the Freedom Flotilla was a massacre.”

08:53 ET: The death toll among the activists stands at 10, though it is believed to be higher.

Turkey, which backed the convoy, recalled its ambassador from Israel.

The United States “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained,” according to a White House statement.

President Obama was already scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday at the White House. Obama is also scheduled to receive Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 9.

The EU has demanded an inquiry into the incident. France and Germany said they were “shocked.” The UN condemned violence against civilians in international waters.

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