‘STICK TOGETHER AND WE WILL BREAK THE SIEGE OF GAZA’ – Flotilla survivors report on the violent Israeli attack, and condemn British consular ‘unconcern’

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The audience at Wednesday night’s Public Rally to hear eyewitness accounts of the Israeli army attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
The audience at Wednesday night’s Public Rally to hear eyewitness accounts of the Israeli army attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

SURVIVORS told a packed central London meeting on Wednesday evening of the violent Israel attacks on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and the unconcern of the British consul when they were detained at Ashdod.

Mavi Marmara survivor Jamal al Shial said: ‘I was on board the ship as a journalist.

‘The Israeli military machine treats everyone with sheer contempt.

‘I filmed every centimetre of the ship, there was not one weapon on board.

‘No one expected the Israeli attack to take place in the inhumane way it did.

‘At 1.00am we saw naval ships and helicopters. The organisers called on passengers to go below decks.

‘At 1.30am the organisers ordered the ship further away from Israel, and deeper into international waters.

‘At 4.00am the attack started. Israeli helicopters were swarming over the decks.

‘None of the satellite phones were working, emails were also jammed.’

He added: ‘One of the Turkish passengers was shot from a helicopter.

‘There were no soldiers on board then.

‘A white flag was waved but live firing was still fired.

‘An announcement was made that the ship had surrendered.

‘Live firing was fired after that as well.

‘Down below was shocking, horror and blood. There was blood on the floor, there were critically injured people.

‘It was announced that there were critically injured people but no-one came.

‘All these people were killed twice – once by the people who shot them and once by the people who refused to come to their aid.

‘There were negotiations for some of the injured to be taken to hospital.

‘Later, they started to arrest people.

‘As they started taking the injured people, they refused to allow a stretcher.’

Jamal continued: ‘We sat on the deck in the sun, on our knees.

‘I was only allowed to go to the toilet after three hours.

‘We arrived at Ashdod at 6.00-7.00pm, but I was only taken off the ship at 8.00am the next day

‘A soldier said “welcome to Israel”.’

He added: ‘They asked me to sign a deportation order which said I had entered Israel illegally.’

He stressed: ‘None of us was detained, we were all kidnapped, abducted.’

He continued: ‘It was only when I got to prison that my hands were untied.

‘I was refused contact with the British consul, refused representation, refused a phone call.

‘However, Palestinian lawyers came in and it was only through them I was able to send some sort of message to my family.

‘In the end, every single consul came except the British.

‘Every so often, they took someone away from the cell.

‘At 3.00am, the guards came in and told the Turkish nationals “you are going”.

‘But they refused to leave the befriended British citizens.

‘If it had not been for the Turkish government, I don’t believe I would have been released.’

He concluded: ‘What the Israelis did was a service to the cause, more of these convoys must go through.’

Film maker Salma told the rally: ‘Soon we will see more ships, and there will be an air flotilla from Holland!

‘I saw one of our journalists shot from a helicopter.

‘We knew Israel was going to attack in the darkness as they usually do.

‘The Turkish media team is to be congratulated for what they did.

‘After we were attacked it was very noisy, loud, windy.

‘I was running when something fell on my head. It was an Israeli soldier who started firing and I disarmed him.

‘We went downstairs. We thought people would be suffering from tear gas, we didn’t realise they would be firing live bullets.

‘It was like an American horror movie, people were covered in blood. It was chaos.

‘We were taken down to the saloon. The soldiers were taking people one by one to be handcuffed.

‘One soldier told me “you have five minutes” to move the injured.

‘Dogs were brought into the room. Some of the wounded were handcuffed.’

Salma added: ‘For six hours they handcuffed me. They twisted my fingers and now I have no feeling in four fingers.

‘They put metal bars under my knees, I was like a trolley.

‘They were beating me in front of a small child, which made it cry.’

He said: ‘Finally, I was taken to Israel. They tried to force us to sign a document.

The British consul’s response was disgusting.

‘I don’t know how many people have to be shot for the British government to take a firm stand.’

Survivor Alex said: ‘I had no concept of how bad a massacre would come.

‘Only the Mavi Marmara witnessed death and destruction.

‘As I looked at the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) men, I wondered what they wanted to achieve.

‘After our going on a ship that smelled of blood, I was processed at Ashdod.’

She added: ‘We will carry on organising convoys.

‘Given enough rope Israel will hang itself. Well, this mission gave it some rope – the truth.

‘We thank the Turkish government for outstanding care and the way we were looked after.

‘We now want the media to ask about the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli custody.’

Bilal Abdul Azis, who was on a ship from Greece, told the meeting: ‘There were three cargo vessels and three passenger ships that were attacked at the same time.’

‘A helicopter came by. It did not have any lights on.

‘We saw boats coming from the left and right. Each boat had about 15 soldiers.

‘We repelled them the first time but the violence was overwhelming, some of us were shot with stun guns.’

He added: ‘We were unarmed. People were beaten and tasered.

‘My neck was burned. I keep myself fit but it was worse for older people.’

He continued: ‘When we arrived in Ashdod we were only allowed to take passports and medicine . . .

‘I was taken on a bus to a prison. I requested a phone call, that was denied, representation was denied.’

He concluded: ‘You are the only people who can help us in this. We need you to come on board, ordinary people. Stick together and we will win and break the siege on Gaza.’

Other speakers recounted similar stories.

PSC trade union officer Bernard Reagan called for a trade union boycott of Israel.

Respect MP George Galloway announced that on September 12th ‘Viva Palestina and our allies will set out on an epic land convoy to Gaza’.

He added that ‘at the same time, a flotilla of 60 ships will sail to break the siege. Both these convoys will arrive at the same time.’