By Sharon Roffe-Ofir, Ynet – 1 June 2010
Arab Knesset member who participated in Gaza aid flotilla holds press conference says, ‘It was clear from size of force that boarded ship that purpose was not to stop sail, but to cause largest number of fatalities to prevent future initiatives’
Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi, who was on board the Marmara ship when it was raided by Navy fighters, held a press conference in Nazareth on Tuesday, in which she accused Israel of committing crimes during its takeover of the Gaza-bound aid ship. She called for an international inquiry into the incident.
Zoabi added, “It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail, but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future.”
She said the flotilla’s participants did not have any violent intentions: “Our goal was to break the siege. We had no plans for a confrontation. Israel carried out a provocative military operation. Israel is used to doing as it pleases with the Palestinians. The main problem is not the ship, but the siege.”
She also demanded the activists held in Beersheba be allowed visitation. “We also demand a UN inquiry commission probe the Israeli claims. This is an international issue, because the passengers were from different nations.”
Of the raid itself, she said, “I entered the captain’s room. He was asked to stop by the Israeli soldiers. He said, ‘We are a Turkish ship.’ We were 130 miles off. It was 11:30 pm. We saw four Israel vessels, they were at a distance because we were in international waters. At 4:15 am we saw the ships approaching.
“They were dinghies and choppers. At 4:30 am the forces landed quickly. I did not hear any warning from the ships, because noise was coming from the ships and the choppers. Within 10 minutes there were already three bodies. The entire operation took about an hour.”
She denied any resistance from the ship’s passengers. “There was not a single passenger who raised a club. We put on our life vests. From where I was standing, I didn’t see any clubs or anything of the sort. There were gunshots, I don’t know if they were live bullets or not. There were gunshots fired from the ships in our direction.
“A clear message was being sent to us, for us to know that our lives were in danger. We convened that we were not interested in a confrontation. What we saw was five bodies. There were only civilians and there were no weapons. There was a sense that I many not come out of it alive. Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation.”
Zoabi was released to her home Tuesday morning after being questioned. Three other Israeli Arabs who were on the sail faced a remand hearing at the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court.
Shortly before the takeover, Zoabi said, “We are part of the Palestinian people. They are trying to break us. The ships took us by surprise and started to call out to us. For four years, no one spoke about Gaza. Only in this past week did the entire world get to the war crimes of Israel, a country that occupies and violates basic humanitarian rights.”
The complete IOA coverage of the Gaza Flotilla
The complete IOA coverage of Haneen Zoabi