Supremacist Degeneracy – Israel acts with depravity

See the TruthAs the old saying goes, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and Israel is no exception. With the craven collusion of the UK and US, the Zionist enterprise has had absolute power over its luckless neighbours since its unfortunate conception or rather transplantation.

Israel’s fetishistic posture as victim whilst it perversely celebrates a stance of victory, colonialism, nationalism and militarism has encouraged displays of defiant, lawless behaviour by the state itself and amongst its worldwide cadres of Zionist zombies, which would make it the envy of every tinpot dictator from Zimbabwe to Burma.

The latest of its repugnant transgressions against international law and human decency is the terrorising of the crew of the Lebanese aid ship en route to Gaza and carrying 60 tons of aid, journalists and activists including former Greek Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem Hilarion Capucci, who left Jerusalem in the 1970s after serving in an Israeli jail.

Israeli soldiers on Thursday climbed into the Lebanese aid ship “Taly” and beat up the crew, while Israeli war ships opened fire on the ship near Gaza territorial waters, the Doha-based al-Jazeera TV reported.

An al-Jazeera reporter on board, crying in panic, said “they are directing their guns to our heads and beating us” before the television signal broke off.

The Israeli navy fired three times on the Togo-flagged ship, according to the report

The ship was then seized and towed to the town with a name straight out of Tolkien’s Mordor – Ashdod.

The Israeli army confirmed that a Lebanese aid boat, which was trying to enter the Gaza Strip water, was seized by the Israeli navy on Thursday morning.

The crew was taken in for questioning by Israeli security personnel and all the humanitarian goods would be transferred into Gaza via border crossings, the spokesman said.

Earlier, reporters from Al-Jadeed and al-Jazeera TVs said the Israeli navy fired three times on the ship, which caused no casualties.

The Al-Jadeed station said Israeli troops then boarded the ship and threatened the crew, adding that the Togo-flagged ship was surrounded by 18 Israeli gunboats demanding the crew turn back.

IDF spokesman denied that the army used any gunfire to the boat, adding that the crew of the boat had ignored different warnings from the Israeli navy.

“Israeli crew approached the boat Wednesday night, as it was suspicious of smuggling illegal supplies,” he said.

The boat set sail from the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday night and headed for Gaza Wednesday morning after a stopover in Cyprus.

It was directed to al-Arish in Egypt initially, but the crew decided to try again to reach Gaza to challenge an Israeli siege of Gaza, according to army sources.

Al Jazeera’s report is more enlightening than the Xinhua releases above.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent aboard the Al-Ikhwa (The Brotherhood) ship said the navy first opened fire, then five Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, beating and threatening the passengers.

“They are pointing guns against us – they are kicking us and beating us. They are threatening our lives,” Al Jazeera’s Salam Khoder said.

Communications with the ship broke off shortly thereafter.

According to the owner of the vessel, the Israelis destroyed its communication equipment and confiscated the phones of those on board.

Maan Bashour, an aid co-ordinator for the group End the Blockade of Gaza, said the ship was carrying medical equipment, food supplies and books, toys and milk for small children.

“This ship was searched in Cyprus and in Lebanon,” Bashour told Al Jazeera in Beirut, Lebanon. “And we were very eager to let it be searched by Lebanese and Cypriot authorities in order that there be no reason for the Israelis to prevent it from going to Gaza.”

Foud Siniora, Lebanon’s president, condemned the attack on Al-Ikhwa, emphasising that it was on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.

“It is no surprise for Israel to perpetrate such an action as it has been accustomed to ignoring all international resolutions and values,” he said during a speech in Beirut.

“I made a number of necessary phone calls with international parties in order to exert pressures on Israel which is violating laws. I hold Israel responsible for the safety of the ship and passengers. ”

Children live with Israeli bullets in PalestineIn Cairo, truce talks as yet have not reached satisfactory resolution.

Egyptian officials had expressed hopes a deal would be signed on Thursday, but Hamas negotiators returned to Gaza and Damascus overnight with a number of issues still unresolved.

Despite the setback, Hamas delegates are expected to return to Egypt on Saturday and officially accept an at least 12-month truce with Israel.

Mohammed Nasr, a member of the Hamas delegation that travelled to Cairo, told Al Jazeera that some of the proposals discussed were “ambiguous”.

“Our brothers in Egypt, they need some time to contact the other side [Israel] in order to get clarifications and answers to our questions and issues raised by the [Hamas] movement,” he said.

One of the key sticking points in reaching agreement is the opening of Gaza’s borders.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups have demanded Israel lifts its blockade of the Gaza Strip, which prevents even humanitarian aid from coming in.

Israel, however, has cited concerns of weapons smuggling into the territory and says it wants to keep at least a quarter of the border crossings closed as leverage until Hamas releases Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006.

Hamas has so far refused to link the two issues, saying Shalit will only be released if Israel frees some of its held members in exchange.

Another sticking point is the length of the ceasefire agreement.

Israel has asked for a 18-month truce, while Hamas has called for a year-long truce.

Salah al-Bardawil, another member the Hamas negotiating team, told Al Jazeera that while there are still several unresolved issues, he was confident that a deal would be reached within days.

Furthermore, he said Egypt has pledged to host all the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, at a conference on February 22 to deal with such issues as national unity, security and political prisoners.

Ominously, US/Israeli collaborator, Egypt, has closed the southern borders completely – is another military assault on Rafah imminent?

Egypt on Thursday closed its Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip to all but exceptional cases after opening it to aid and wounded Palestinians during Israel’s war on Hamas.

“The border is closed as of this morning,” a border official told AFP, adding that wounded Palestinians being treated in Egypt would still be allowed to return home and some wounded Gazans would still be allowed to enter Egypt.

“No humanitarian, media or medical delegations will be allowed through, nor will medical aid deliveries be permitted,” the official said, while “foreign delegations” who entered Gaza from Egypt would also be allowed to return.

Xinjua’s story offers some additional information:

Egypt and other foreign countries had asked its citizens and the medical teams to leave the Gaza Strip before February 5 without showing the reason, but in fear of a resumption of an Israeli military assault on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Gaza-Israeli crossings coordinator Ra’ed Fatouh said earlier that Israel informed the Palestinians that it would partially and temporarily reopen its crossings with Gaza to allow food and fuels for the Gaza Strip.

“Three key crossing points between Israel and Gaza will be reopened today (Wednesday) to allow food supplies as well as industrial diesel for operating the main Gaza power station,” said Fatouh.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is not amused, condemning “President Mubarak’s refusal to open the Rafah crossing to let humanitarian aid into Gaza”.

Mark Regev proves once more the master of projectionist hyperbole:

Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev did not mince his words.
“Hamas is playing with fire and they alone will be responsible for the destruction of the truce,” Regev said. “The whole international community will understand that if there is a new escalation it will be the direct result of Hamas’ extremist, irresponsible and nihilistic behavior.”

This victimhood hasbara is getting very old, Mark.

Netanyahoo begins to throw his projectionist cap into the electoral ring.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on Tuesday that he would dethrone Hamas if he is elected.

“A government led by me will topple the Hamas government in Gaza and bring peace and security to the South,” he said, attacking Livni and Barak for ending Cast Lead without stopping the rockets.

Israel's blitz on GazaSomeone needs to explain to Bibi that one dethrones monarchs, not democratically elected governments.

Jonathan Cook presents a lucid piece in Electronic Intifada on the theologisation of the Israeli militia.

In a process one military historian has termed the rapid “theologization” of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Their influence in shaping the army’s goals and methods is starting to be felt, say observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel’s religious extremist population.

“We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield,” said Yigal Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University who has written several books on the Israeli army.

The new atmosphere was evident in the “excessive force” used in the recent Gaza operation, Dr Levy said. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, a majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured as whole neighborhoods of Gaza were leveled.

“When soldiers, including secular ones, are imbued with theological ideas, it makes them less sensitive to human rights or the suffering of the other side.”

From Dr. Mona El-Farra : letter from my friend , S. Robins, constructive plastic suegeon inside gaza

Money will no doubt pour into the system now but unless there is some justice over the use of unconventional weapons on a civilian popultation so the extent that almost every street had bits of phosphurus mixture that kids play with to make it ignite 20 days later in some cases. That also needs clearing up safely particularly as rain water or heat of the summer could reignite these remnants. children are already getting fingers and faces burnt as they play with remnants in the streets.

Several stories are new on Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother –

Israeli ambassador gets the shoe

The two protesters, a young woman and a young man, shouted “Murderers!”and “Intifada!” while pelting Dagan with the objects. They are currently under arrest, suspected of assault and public disturbance.

Some 20 minutes into the lecture, a woman stood up in the audience, threw a red shoe at the ambassador and shouted “Murderers!”. The shoe hit Dagan in his stomach. Another protester then joined in and hurled two books and a note pad.

Dagan was dumbstruck and paralysed, but returned to his lecture shortly after a few minutes – only to face shouts and other verbal protests from the audience. The meeting ended in chaos, while the two protestors were taken into custody.

Sameh Habeeb and Janet Zimmerman present the story of Khaled Abd Rabo.

“And then the tanks came. One of them was based only meters away from my house. There were twenty-five of us, and we were all told to leave,” he said as his voice trembled and he began to cry. “The soldiers were eating chips and chocolate, and they were smiling when they killed my daughters.

”My mother, my wife, and my three daughters all held white flags when they tried to leave the house. We saw two of the soldiers get out of their tank, and we told them how we wanted to leave. We waited and waited for their response but were given no answer. Then, to our own surprise, a third soldier emerged and he opened fire on the children with insanity.

“Souad was only seven years old, Summer was three, and Amal was of only two years. My mother was shot as well, and I watched all that I loved fall to the ground. I screamed for them to stop! I ran into the house to call civil defense, ambulances, anyone who could help.

“For one hour the injured were bleeding, and two of my daughters were killed despite the so called ceasefire. No help was able to come to us in time. One of the ambulances tried, but the Israeli soldiers stopped the paramedic and forced him to remove his clothing. They then bombed the ambulance and it was buried in rubble. The paramedic fled naked while their fire surrounded him.

Gazan street artSome Gazan reminiscences:

Remembering a time
A Gazan feast!
Seeing is not like hearing
What YOU can do: 10 way to help Gaza/Palestine

From In Gaza:

Next Time It Will Hurt More

Baby Shahed’s body, when it was finally recovered, had been found by dogs. The 5 bodies were all so burned, decomposed, and torn apart that the remaining pieces fit into 1 grave.

No scrap of dignity was allotted to the dead.

Nor to the living. The house was occupied and desecrated by Israeli soldiers, as was the house of Muhammad and Matar. Some of the graffiti penned by Israeli soldiers included: “Your underwear is good,” which the family had tried to scrub off.

In Matar’s house significant shelling and shooting ripped into walls and windows. Much more graffiti in Hebrew stained the walls. A sketch of a nude woman.

And pledges:

“If we missed (left) one of the house corners undestroyed, we will get back to you the next operation!”

“It will hurt more next time!!!”

How could it possibly hurt more?

There’s a concise list of IDF travesties during Israel’s assault on Gaza at The McLoughlin Post.

Don’t miss “Inside the Mind of Mark Regev”

16 comments to Supremacist Degeneracy – Israel acts with depravity

  • James

    Only liberals can back folks who send suicide bombers into Israeli school buses, shopping malls, and restaurants

    • Considering the intellectual calibre of your comment, it is not surprising that you might erroneously believe ‘liberals’ support suicide bombing.

  • Re. Lu Ann’s comments on the humanitarian ship to Gaza. I did not follow specifically the one that was accosted and taken over by the IDF, but I followed the others and saw one of the crews. Based on experience I would believe Fringe on this one and not LuAnn. (not to mention that Fringe brings documentation and triangulation of information, rather than mere shouts and accusations). It’s also been reported that Israel has mobilized an ‘army’ of volunteers to surf the blogosphere and make sure the dominant propaganda is enforced in this less controllable world. Deny, deny, deny; lie, lie, lie. As big and as much as possible. Blame the “leftist, antisemitic” media. What matters is planting doubt and allowing the status quo to be maintained.
    Lu Ann says it: “all a media game when it comes to Gazans.”
    Well – I’ve been to Gaza; it’s not a game. It’s a bloody shame what we are allowing Israel to do there.
    When things are quiet – there’s still a crushing occupation going on, no fuel, no cement, not to mention targeted killlings. Israel gets giddy with self-righteousness when it takes in a humanitarian case in its hospitals or allows 20 trucks in. The fact is it has sealed off Gaza and the “Israeli on the street” is ready to elect Netanyahu and wants more and more escalation. It’s become acceptable to consider “killing them all.” It’s scary what people are saying. Back to the Middle Ages. Peas in a pod with jihadists.
    Yes – Jihad and Hamas have the wrong strategy with their bloody rockets. But it is not any more morally reprehensible than Israel’s day to day strategy. And don’t give me the “oh, we only kill civilians through collateral damage.” Israel is choking to death 1.5 million people. Some of them would rather die militants and even terrorists. It’s a shame, but Israel has the controlling majority in the distribution of this shame.
    Wake up! Just because the US is giving you its blessing to carry out madness doesn’t mean it’s not madness.
    Wake up.

  • More reports on the aid ship ‘Brotherhood’.

    Prenza Latina:

    Gaza, Feb 5 (Prensa Latina) The Israeli navy shot Thursday at a humanitarian aid ship off the coast of Gaza, while its occupying troops killed a supposed Palestinian leader in the city of Jenin, in the West Bank.

    The Israeli military patrol attacked the ship Brotherhood three times.

    The boat had set sail on Monday for that coastal strip from Tripoli port, in the Lebanese northern area, loaded with 60 tons of medicines, food, toys, books, and other goods. The ship was intercepted on Wednesday, when its occupants, mostly human rights activists, pacifists, and journalists, insisted on reaching the Gaza coasts, in defiance of the Israeli blockade against that enclave, Maan Mashour told the Qatari Al Jazera television station.

    Bashour, who was on board the ship, said it was an unjustified crime in every sense of the word, and happened just one month after the yacht Dignity, which was also carrying material aid, was attacked by Israeli military ships.

    The mentioned boat was damaged in the bow and forced to harbor in the southern Lebanese Tiro port.

    “There are no rockets or any military armament. They (the Israelis) knew it well,” Bashour stated, and said Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, Jerusalem’s Catholic archbishop, who was imprisoned there for several years, until 1970, was also on board of the Brotherhood.

    Haaretz mouths IDF spin:

    Israel has decided to release a cargo ship it detained Thursday for attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The freighter and its passengers will be redirected back to Lebanon on Friday with the help of international organizations.

    The Israel Navy boarded the vessel after it tried to break the blockade, and escorted it into the port of Ashdod, Israeli officials said.

    The Israel Defense Forces said that troops found about 150 bottles of mineral water and a few dozen kilograms of food and medicine on board, despite earlier claims that it was carrying dozens of tons of humanitarian aid.
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    The Tali, a cargo vessel flying the flag of the West African state of Togo, was sent by the Palestinian National Committee Against the Siege in cooperation with the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement. Its cargo was claimed to have included about 60 tons of medicine, food and toys, plus 10,000 units of human blood plasma which requires constant refrigeration.

    No weapons were found aboard the ship, an Israeli army spokesman said.

    It was the first apparent attempt by a foreign ship carrying aid to reach the Palestinian territory since Israel ended its 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza two weeks ago.

    Military sources said that on board the vessel – dubbed the “Brotherhood Ship” – were nine people, including Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in 1974 after being caught smuggling weapons from Lebanon to activists in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

    Capucci was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released after three years upon a papal request to the Israeli government. He has made frequent anti-Israel comments since his release.

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that the navy boarded the vessel and ordered it to Ashdod.

    Barak said the navy had initially allowed the ship to sail to Egypt but its captain made a U-turn towards Gaza’s shore.

    The army had earlier said in a statement that, “The actions of the boat crew raised suspicion, as it could threaten security concerns, or furthermore, the boat could be used for smuggling banned equipment [weaponry, etc.] in to or out of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.

    “As a result of the actions taken by the boat crew, an Israel Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat, directing it towards Ashdod,” the army said.

    Qatar-based Al Jazeera television quoted a correspondent aboard the vessel as saying the Israel Navy had fired shots then boarded the Tali and beaten passengers and crew.

    “They are opening fire towards the vessel … there are Israeli soldiers who have actually boarded the vessel,” said correspondent Salam Khoder. “Three of them are pointing their weapons at us … They are beating those on the vessel, they are beating and kicking us.”

    Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the action.

    “Those who commit massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza will not stop themselves from assaulting, in front of the world, a ship carrying humanitarian supplies,” he said. “I express my utmost condemnation for this blatant attack.”

    An IDF army spokesman said no gunfire was used in taking control of the vessel and most of the 20 passengers aboard were from media organizations. But he said warning shots were fired in the air when the ship tried to sail towards the Gaza Strip.

    Al Jazeera said the ship, dubbed Brotherhood by activists, was carrying humanitarian aid from Lebanese and Arab charities for those made homeless by Israel’s devastating offensive.

    Israel maintains tight control of Gaza’s access to the outside world, insisting it will not permit shipment of cash, steel or other materials that could be used by Hamas Islamists, who control the Strip, to make weapons.

    From Ma’an News Agency:

    Bethlehem – Ma’an – Two Israeli warships assaulted then intercepted a Lebanese ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza late on Wednesday and redirected the vessel to Ashdod Thursday morning, according to journalists on board the vessel.

    Nine passengers and crew members are being held and questioned by Israeli authorities.

    Israeli troops attacked the Lebanese ship as it entered Gaza waters, firing on the ship and crew and blocking passage into the coastal area.

    The ship was reportedly directed by Israeli authorities to divert its course and land in Egypt’s Al-Arish port 40kms south of Gaza, but circled in territorial waters and made a second attempt to enter the besieged area.

    When the ship attempted its second entry it was boarded by Israeli naval officers who beat pointed weapons at crew members and passengers.

    “They are pointing guns against us. They are kicking us and beating us. They are threatening our lives,” said Salam Khoder, an Al-Jazeera correspondent on board.

    According to an Israeli military spokesperson, Israeli sailors boarded the ship after it said it would divert course to Egypt, then turned toward Gaza. The Israeli navy has denied firing shots.

    “The boat crew will be taken for questioning by the Israeli police, and any humanitarian goods found on the boat will be transferred to the Gaza Strip,” the military said.

    Co-organizer of the voyage Dr Hani Suleiman assured that the boat had been inspected by Cypriot customs authorities and was cleared for sail. The boat, named the Brotherhood, contained 50 tons of medical and humanitarian aid.

    Among the passengers onboard were Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, a notable named Dahoud Mustafa and journalists Ogarit Dandash and Salam Khoder, Muhammad Aleiq and Mazen Majed, and an Irish activist with the Free Gaza movement.

    The ship is the tenth such mission where aid groups or government-sponsored vessels attempted to break the Israeli imposed siege on Gaza. The first three missions, organized by the Free Gaza Movement, were successful, though all attempts after the 8 November docking were blocked by Israel naval vessels, diplomatic actions or Israeli police.

    From AFP:

    SHDOD, Israel (AFP) — A Lebanese freighter that tried to deliver aid to Gaza in defiance of a blockade docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod under navy escort on Thursday after being intercepted at sea.

    The boat was towed into the commercial port, surrounded by Israeli naval vessels before being steered to a military dock.

    Israeli forces intercepted the Togolese-flagged “Tali” as it tried to enter Gaza’s territorial waters, the military said.

    “While at sea, the cargo boat was contacted by Israel, clarifying that it will not be permitted to enter Gazan coastal waters because of security risks in the area and the existing naval blockade,” the statement said.

    The crew stated it would sail to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, but eventually tried to slip into Gaza, the military said.

    It said the crew would be questioned by police and any humanitarian goods aboard the vessel taken to Gaza.

    One of the organisers of the shipment claimed the navy had fired on the boat, an allegation denied by Israel.

    “We were informed by the crew that Israeli forces boarded the ship after firing shots at it,” Maen Bashur told AFP.

    In response, a military statement said “no gunshots were fired on board during the boarding and capture of the cargo boat.”

    Bashur confirmed that the freighter had tried to reach Gaza through Egyptian territorial waters despite being warned off by Israel earlier.

    The Hamas rulers of Gaza accused Israel of “piracy.”

    “The Palestinian government strongly condemns the act of piracy undertaken by the Israeli occupation in abducting the ship of our Lebanese brothers,” said Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Islamist administration in Gaza.

    “The government considers this aggressive Israeli behavior to be a tightening of the unjust blockade,” he said.

    Among the eight people on board the “Brotherhood Ship” was the former Greek Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who left Jerusalem in the 1970s after serving time in an Israeli jail for membership in the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

    The Tali had earlier stopped over at the nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus where authorities inspected the cargo before continuing its voyage towards Gaza.

    An Israeli military spokesman said that by entering Gazan waters, the crew “raised suspicion, as it could threaten security concerns, or furthermore, the boat could be used for smuggling banned equipment (weaponry, etc.) into or out of the Gaza Strip.”

    He stressed that “any organisation or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, can do so via the established crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip with prior coordination.”

    Following the devastating 22-day military offensive that ended on January 18, humanitarian agencies have stepped up calls for a lifting of the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza after Hamas seized power in the Palestinian enclave 18 months ago.

    • Xinhua new report:

      DAMASCUS, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) — Syria strongly condemned on Thursday “the Israeli navy piracy” against a Lebanese ship which loaded with humanitarian aid for the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza, the official SANA news agency reported.

      “Syria holds Israel fully responsible for the safety of the ship, its crew and all passengers,” a foreign ministry source was quoted as saying, referring to the seizure of a Lebanese aid boat by the Israeli navy earlier, which was trying to enter the Gaza Strip water.

      Syria “demands the international community and all bodies concerned with humanitarian affairs, to condemn this piracy, act immediately for the release of all the detainees, and request Israel to allow the Palestinian people access to the humanitarian aid on board the ship,” said the source.

      The Israeli army has confirmed the incident, saying the Lebanese cargo boat “Taly”, with eight people and 60 tons of humanitarian supplies on board, was stopped by the Israeli navy from making its way to Gaza and was towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

      A spokesman of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told Xinhua that the crew was taken in for questioning and all the humanitarian goods would be transferred into Gaza via border crossings.

      Earlier, Al-Jadeed and al-Jazeera TVs reported that the Israeli navy fired three times on the ship, which caused no casualties.

      The Al-Jadeed station said Israeli troops then boarded the ship and threatened the crew, adding that the Togo-flagged ship was surrounded by 18 Israeli gunboats demanding it to turn back.

      The IDF spokesman, however, denied that the navy had used any gunfire against the boat, saying its crew had ignored different warnings from the Israeli navy.

      The boat set sail from the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday night and headed for Gaza Wednesday morning after a stopover in Cyprus.

      It was directed to al-Arish in Egypt initially, but the crew decided to try again to reach Gaza to challenge an Israeli siege of Gaza, according to Israeli army sources.

      • The Daily Star:

        BEIRUT: A Lebanese aid ship bound for Gaza was fired upon and boarded by the Israeli Navy on Thursday, the trip’s organizers and journalists onboard have said. Israeli officials initially refused to verify the reports, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak then confirmed that the ship had been boarded and was being escorted to the Israeli coastal town of Ashdod.

        “At first the ship understood we were prohibiting it from heading to Gaza and steered toward Al-Arish [Egypt],” Barak said at a press conference, adding that “from Egyptian territorial waters it tried to slip into Gaza waters. That is when the Israeli Navy boarded it, and it is now taking it to Ashdod.”

        The Togolese-flagged Tali was trying to deliver about 60 tons of aid, including medical supplies, food and children’s toys, to the besieged Gaza Strip, still in the midst of a humanitarian crisis after Israel’s three week bombardment on the impoverished territory in December and January that left over 1,300 dead and thousands homeless.

        “We were informed by the crew that Israeli forces boarded the ship after firing shots at it. We’ve lost contact with them,” one of the aid trip’s organizers, Maen Bashur, told AFP. The humanitarian voyage aimed at the breaking the Israeli siege was planned by the Palestinian National Committee Against the Siege, in conjunction with the Free Gaza Movement, which sent a series of aid ships to Gaza from Cyprus last fall.

        Al-Jazeera journalist Salam Khoder, who was aboard, said the ship had been boarded and that crewmembers were being assaulted. “There are Israeli soldiers who actually have boarded the vessel … They are … beating and kicking us,” he said before, according to Al-Jazeera, the line went dead.

        The Lebanese Cabinet convened on Thursday to discuss the situation. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora briefed ministers about the international contacts he made to ensure the safety of passengers on board.

        Siniora, who had petitioned the international community to force Israel to allow the aid delivery, strongly condemned the Israeli military action.

        “Those who commit massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza will not stop themselves from assaulting, in front of the world, a ship carrying humanitarian supplies. I express my utmost condemnation for this blatant attack,” he said.

        President Michel Sleiman and Speaker Nabih Berri also condemned the interception of the aid ship.

        “The Israelis are pirates,” he told his visitors on Thursday.

        An Israeli military statement denied that shots had been fired, and said that the aid would be delivered to Gaza by land and that the crew would be handed over to the Israeli police.

        The Beirut bureau of Al-Jazeera told The Daily Star that the ship’s crew was indeed in custody in Ashdod and was undergoing questioning.

        Although preliminary accounts vary slightly, Bashur said that the boat was first intercepted in international waters by two Israeli gunships, later accompanied by two helicopters that were dropping flares.

        The boat, according to several accounts, then tried to enter Gazan waters through Egyptian territorial waters. At that point, the Tali – or the “Brotherhood Ship” – was intercepted, boarded and escorted toward Israel.

        The Al-Jadeed television station reported that 18 Israeli naval vessels had been involved in the interception.

        During its offensive in Gaza, triggered by a lapsed Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, Israel clamped down on international access to the territory and its waters, declaring the strip a closed military zone. It has not permitted aid vessels access to Gaza since the weeks-long offensive.

        Last month an Iranian aid ship was prevented from delivering supplies to Gaza, and in December the Israeli navy rammed the US-based Free Gaza movement’s SS Dignity also bound for Gaza, forcing it limp to port in south Lebanon.

        In an interview with The Daily Star in January, the Dignity’s captain, Denis Healey, warned that additional aid-trips to Gaza could be met with more heavy-handed Israeli responses, including interception and confiscation.

        The Tali has a crew of eight, made up of journalists, activists and clerics – including the former Greek Catholic Archbishop of Occupied Jerusalem, Hilarion Capucci, who was jailed in Israel in the 1970s for his membership in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

        The supplies on board the ship, weighing an estimated 60 tons, had been donated through several Lebanese and Arab charities.

        The ship set sail for Cyprus from the port of Tripoli on Tuesday and its cargo was inspected by authorities in Cyprus, before it headed for Gaza.

        As The Daily Star prepared to go to press, local media carried reports indicating that Israeli officials had announced their intention to release the crew and passengers at the Naqoura border crossing during the night.

    • Al Jazeera:

      The Israeli navy has released some of the 18 people on board a ship carrying aid from Lebanon to Gaza after seizing the ship and beating those on board.

      Al Jazeera’s Salam Khoder, who was on board the ship, said she and the others on board were beaten by Israeli forces before being taken to a police station and interrogated.

      Minutes after being escorted across the Israeli border to southern Lebanon on Friday, Khoder reported on her capture.

      “At about 11pm last night… the Israeli ship intercepted the ship, fired at the ship and more than 30 soldiers came on to the boat and started beating the passengers,” she said.

      “They blinded our eyes, bounded our hands, kept us in uncomfortable conditions for one hour … they also told us not to communicate with each other in Arabic.”

      She added that the whereabouts of at least two people on board the ship was unknown.

      The Al-Ikhwa was carrying 60 tonnes of medical supplies, food, books and toys to Gaza, where a more than year-long Israeli blockade along with its devastating offensive last month have left residents struggling to get basic necessities.

      Israeli denial

      Israel denied using violence in the operation and said it had warned the ship on Wednesday night against entering Gaza’s coastal waters.

      The ship was carrying 60 tonnes of relief supplies bound for blockaded Gaza [AFP]
      “During today’s [Thursday] morning hours, the cargo ship changed its bearing, and began heading towards the Gaza Strip … disregarding all warnings made,” the Israeli military said.

      The Al-Ikhwa, which originally set sail from Cyprus, left the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Tuesday.

      Maan Bashour, an aid co-ordinator for the group End the Blockade of Gaza, told Al Jazeera that the ship “was searched in Cyprus and in Lebanon”.

      “And we were very eager to let it be searched by Lebanese and Cypriot authorities in order that there be no reason for the Israelis to prevent it from going to Gaza.”

      Foud Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, condemned the attack on Al-Ikhwa, emphasising that it was on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.

      “It is no surprise for Israel to perpetrate such an action as it has been accustomed to ignoring all international resolutions and values,” he said in Beirut.

      • From the Free Gaza Movement, who had an Irish activist on board the Taly:

        One of the Free Gaza volunteers was on this boat, the TALI, and Free Gaza organizers helped in Cyprus to get the boat inspected, then sent on to Gaza. Please make your outrage heard as, once again, Israel, the bully of the Eastern Mediterranean, gets away with piracy. On board was an elderly patriarch from Jerusalem as well as several Lebanese human rights watchers. According to eye witnesses, the passengers were beaten and much of the boat destroyed. We are checking the status of the units of plasma loaded on board, because, if the stories are accurate that the Israeli Navy thugs turned off the generators, this badly-needed plasma will be destroyed very quickly.

        From a previous report:

        8 pm (CET) M. writes: “T. just phoned to say they have been approached by two Israeli gunboats, which are hovering around, and there are two Israeli helicopters overhead. The Israeli’s told the captain of TALI that he cannot go to Gaza and, according to T., the Israelis told him they will sink the boat if it proceeds. He refused to turn around and told them he is responsible for his boat and he is going to Gaza. The Israelis said the boat can not go to Gaza, and it appears they will try to force it to Arish, but the captain intends to push forward. (And having been aboard the TALI I think it will take more than a ramming to sink it) T. will let us know if anything more happens. They are in international waters but some distance from Gaza water (at sea now close to 9 hours).” Position of the boat: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=32.8707,33.7776&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

      • AP:

        JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the Israeli navy has intercepted a ship carrying activists and supplies from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

        Barak says the navy is towing the vessel to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

        The ship had set sail on Wednesday in a bid to defy Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Reporters from Arab TV stations Al-Jadeed and Al-Jazeera who were on the vessel said the Israelis fired at the ship before boarding it and beating the crew.

        They said they were unable to show pictures of the incident because the Israeli force smashed their broadcast equipment.

        Reuters:

        ASHDOD, Israel (Reuters) – The Israeli navy boarded a freighter trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip on Thursday and escorted it to the port of Ashdod where 20 passengers were being questioned, the military said.

        It was the first apparent attempt by a foreign ship carrying aid to reach the Palestinian coastal enclave since Israel ended its 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.

        A military official said humanitarian aid found on the ship would be transferred to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Video footage released by the army showed boxes piled up in one corner of the ship and no weapons were found.

        Israel Radio said those aboard the Tali, a cargo vessel flying the flag of the West African state of Togo, would be returned by land to Lebanon, from where the ship sailed. The military official said the ship’s 20 passengers, including 10 journalists, were being questioned.

        “Once the questioning is completed we will make a decision on their fate,” a military spokesman said.

        A military source said the passengers also included a veteran Palestinian rights campaigner, Syrian-born Archbishop Hilarion Capucci of the Melkite Church of the Eastern Rite.

        Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the navy had initially allowed the ship to sail to Egypt but its captain made a sudden U-turn towards Gaza’s shore after which the navy boarded the vessel and ordered it to sail to Ashdod.

        Qatar-based Al Jazeera television quoted a correspondent aboard the vessel as saying an Israeli navy ship had fired shots and then sailors boarded the Tali and beat passengers and crew.

        “They are opening fire towards the vessel…there are Israeli soldiers who have actually boarded the vessel,” said correspondent Salam Khoder. “Three of them are pointing their weapons at us…They are beating those on the vessel, they are beating and kicking us.”

        Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the action.

        “Those who commit massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza will not stop themselves from assaulting, in front of the world, a ship carrying humanitarian supplies,” he said. “I express my utmost condemnation for this blatant attack.”

        ‘ACT OF PIRACY’

        At the United Nations, Lebanese envoy Caroline Ziade called on the Security Council for international action to press Israel to release the ship immediately. Arab League Ambassador Yahya Mahmassani condemned the “act of piracy” and said he had received assurances of U.N. efforts to get the ship returned.

        The army said no gunfire was used in taking control of the vessel and most of the 20 passengers aboard were from media organisations. But it said warning shots were fired in the air when the ship tried to sail towards the Gaza Strip.

        Al Jazeera said the ship, dubbed Brotherhood by activists, was carrying humanitarian aid from Lebanese and Arab charities for those made homeless by Israel’s devastating offensive.

        It was sent by the Palestinian National Committee Against the Siege in cooperation with the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement, and the cargo included about 60 tonnes of medicine, food and toys, plus 10,000 units of human blood plasma which requires constant refrigeration.

        Israel maintains tight control of Gaza’s access to the outside world, insisting it will not permit shipment of cash, steel or other materials that could be used by Hamas Islamists, who control the enclave, to make weapons.

        Sympathizers of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians have tried several times in past months to break the Israeli blockade. Some boats with peace activists were allowed to dock, others were warned off.

        • Jerusalem Post:

          The navy intercepted and commandeered a Lebanese cargo ship carrying humanitarian aid after it tried breaking the Israeli sea blockade on the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

          Navy commandeers Lebanese Gaza-bound ship

          The Togo-flagged Tali left Lebanon on Tuesday, carrying some 60 tons of water, food and medicine, as well as 18 people, including Syrian and Lebanese nationals. On Wednesday, the navy contacted the ship and told the captain that it would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. The captain told the navy that the vessel would sail to El-Arish in Egypt.

          On Thursday morning, though, after the ship was already in Egyptian waters, it tried to break the blockade and sail into Gaza. The navy again contacted the ship and warned it to turn around.

          “They told us that they’re determined to get to Gaza and that they do not plan to stop,” explained a senior naval officer involved in the operation. “We told them that we plan to stop them if they break the blockade. They explained that they don’t plan to stop. They continued, and we stopped them.”

          Naval commandos took control of the vessel and ordered the captain to sail into the Ashdod Port. The passengers were transferred to police custody. During the takeover, the officer said, the soldiers encountered light resistance, and shots were fired in the air during the operation.

          No weaponry was discovered on the vessel.

          Reporters from Arab TV stations Al-Jadeed and Al-Jazeera who were aboard the Tali claimed the soldiers had fired at the ship before boarding it and beaten those on board.

          Among the passengers was 86-year-old Greek Catholic priest Hillarion Capucci, who, while serving as an archbishop in Jerusalem, was convicted in 1974 by an Israeli court for using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to Palestinian terrorists. The Syrian-born Capucci was jailed but released three years later at the intervention of the Vatican and deported.

          The voyage organizers said four journalists, a Muslim cleric and a lawyer – all Lebanese citizens – as well as a Palestinian Muslim cleric and a British activist, were also on board.

          The IDF said that those on board the ship would be handed over to immigration authorities and the aid would be transferred to Gaza by land.

          “Since they are here illegally, they will be sent to an Immigration Police facility, where they will be questioned,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “After that, depending on what is decided, they will likely be deported.”

          The Immigration Police confirmed that it had taken two Indian nationals and one Briton into custody and that they would be deported after they were interrogated.

          Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora strongly condemned “the blatant attack” on the ship and said he held Israel responsible for the safety of the ship and its passengers.

          “This Israeli aggression is not surprising,” he said. “Israel, which commits massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza, will not stop at committing an aggression in front of the world against a ship carrying humanitarian aid.”

          At the United Nations, Lebanese diplomat Caroline Ziade urgently appealed to members of the 15-nation Security Council and to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying her government “calls on the international community to press Israel to immediately release the ship” and let it deliver tons of medicine, food and toys.

          “My government condemns the Israeli actions and considers them a blatant and flagrant breach to international law and international humanitarian law,” she wrote.

          A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement sharply condemned what it called Israel’s act of “maritime piracy.”

          • VOA News:

            The Arab League has condemned Israel’s seizure of a ship carrying humanitarian aid from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

            The league’s envoy to the United Nations, Yahya Mahmassani called the interception an act of piracy and asked U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

            Crew members and journalists aboard the Lebanese ship say Israel’s military fired in the ship’s direction before Israeli forces boarded the vessel. The Israeli military denied it fired on the ship.

            Israeli officials said the Lebanese ship was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and that any aid would be transferred to Gaza.

            Meanwhile, Israeli officials say Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to the transfer of $43 million into Gaza to allow the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to pay salaries.

            Palestinians in Gaza have lacked cash due to an Israeli blockade of the territory. Israel says its blockade is aimed at stopping weapons smuggling to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

            In other news, a senior Hamas official, Ayman Taha deposited $11 million in an Egyptian bank, after Egyptian authorities prevented him from carrying the cash into Gaza.

            The official was part of a delegation in Cairo this week for talks on a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. The group was later allowed to cross into Gaza, after leaving Cairo without reaching a deal on a cease-fire.

            Hamas officials say they hope to return to the Egyptian capital within the next week for further talks. They say they want more information from Israel before signing Egypt’s proposal for an 18-month cease-fire.

            Hamas has repeatedly called on Israel to open all border crossings into Gaza. On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also urged the border be opened to allow in humanitarian aid. He made the comments after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

            In violence on Thursday, Israeli officials say troops shot and killed a Palestinian who threw a grenade near the Gaza-Israel border.

            Israel conducted a three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza to put an end to rocket attacks. More than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed before the offensive ended last month.

          • AP:

            JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli navy intercepted a ship delivering 60 tons of supplies to the Gaza Strip from Lebanon on Thursday in the latest bid to defy Israel’s blockade of the militant-held territory.

            The Israelis fired at the ship before boarding it and beating those on board, said reporters from Arab TV stations Al-Jadeed and Al-Jazeera who were on the vessel.

            Gunfire could be heard in the background of the telephoned reports aired by their stations.

            The Israeli navy said no gunshots were fired on the ship as it boarded and seized the vessel. The navy towed the ship, which set sail Tuesday from Lebanon, to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod where it could be seen moored at the quayside.

            Lebanon’s prime minister condemned the “blatant attack” and one of the organizers of the voyage called it a kidnapping. But Israel said the ship tried to slip past its navy after agreeing to sail to Egypt instead.

            The Israeli military said those on board the ship, the Tali, would be handed over to Israeli immigration authorities — and that the aid would be transferred to Gaza by land.

            Israel has kept Gaza’s cargo crossings largely closed since the Hamas militant group seized control of the coastal strip in June 2007.

            Disagreements over opening the Gaza blockade led Hamas negotiators to leave talks in Egypt on Thursday on a long-term cease-fire with Israel. The Hamas team was later stopped at an Egypt-Gaza border crossing with millions of dollars and Euros in their suitcases, an Egyptian security official said.

            The organizers of the aid ship, Lebanese leftist political and human rights activists, said 18 people were on board and that the cargo included medicine, food, toys and basic humanitarian supplies such as mattresses and blankets.

            Among the passengers was 86-year-old Greek Catholic priest Hillarion Capucci who was serving as an archbishop in Jerusalem in 1974 when Israel convicted him of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to Palestinian militants. He was later released from jail at the intervention of the Vatican and deported.

            The Free Gaza Movement, which did not organize the Lebanese voyage but has successfully sent several boatloads of activists to Gaza in the past said one of its British volunteers, Theresa McDermott of Edinburgh, was also on board.

            Israel says the blockade of Gaza is a response to repeated Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel and is necessary to keep arms from reaching Hamas. After Israel ended a three-week military offensive in Gaza last month with an informal cease-fire, Hamas has been trying to get the border crossings reopened as part of a long-term cease-fire.

            But Egyptian efforts for a formal long-term deal took a downturn Thursday when a senior Hamas official said his delegation was leaving Cairo without an agreement because of differences over opening the border crossings.

            Egypt is acting as mediator because Israel and Hamas do not have official contacts.

            Hamas officials had said they are ready to commit to a cease-fire with Israel for at least a year in exchange for a full opening of Gaza’s borders.

            But Hamas negotiator Mohammed Nasr said Israel was trying to avoid fully reopening the Gaza borders. He said his group would wait for answers after the Egyptians talk to Israel.

            The Hamas delegation later was stopped from returning to Gaza with $9 million and 2 million euros in their suitcases, an Egyptian security official said.

            The official said the group initially refused to be searched by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

            The money stayed in Egypt while the delegation was allowed to return to Gaza, said another security official. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

            The Lebanese ship was the latest in a string of vessels that tried to break the Israeli blockade. Israel has permitted several ships to reach Gaza but blocked others, including a Libyan freighter that was forced to turn around last December.

            The Israeli military said the Tali’s shipment had not been cleared by Israeli authorities. It said a naval patrol spoke by radio to the Tali and told its skipper the ship would not be allowed to enter Gaza. The two sides agreed that the vessel would instead sail to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

            But on Thursday morning, the ship tried to double back and slip past the navy, Israel said, raising concerns that it might be trying to smuggle arms into Gaza.

            “As a result of the actions taken by the boat crew, an Israel navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat, directing it toward (the port) of Ashdod, Israel,” the statement said. “No gunshots were fired on board during the boarding and capturing of the cargo boat.”

            Interviewed on Army Radio after the ship was searched, however, a naval officer identified only as Lt.Col.A. said no weapons were found.

            Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said he strongly condemned “the blatant attack” on the ship and held Israel responsible for the safety of the passengers.

            “This Israeli aggression is not surprising,” he said. “Israel, which commits massacres against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza, will not stop at committing an aggression in front of the world against a ship carrying humanitarian aid.”

            A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement sharply condemned what it called Israel’s act of “maritime piracy.”

          • IHT:

            JERUSALEM: The Israeli Navy intercepted a Gaza-bound cargo ship on Thursday, diverting it to an Israeli port where the people aboard were to be questioned, the military announced.

            The boat, called The Brotherhood Ship, was carrying what its organizers said was humanitarian aid: food, medicine and toys.

            The military said it worried the boat could “threaten security concerns” or be used to smuggle banned equipment, like weapons, “into or out of the Gaza Strip.” After searching the vessel, it said no weapons had been found.

            A statement from the Israeli military said the boat, sailing under the flag of Togo, left Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, a few days ago, made a stop in Cyprus, and then tried to enter Gazan waters against Israeli orders. The military said that when the ship’s crew was instructed on Wednesday not to try to reach Gaza, the crew replied that the vessel would go to El Arish, in Egypt, but it then changed course.

            “During today’s morning hours, the cargo ship changed its bearing, and began heading toward the Gaza Strip, contrary to the claims made by the boat crew last evening,” the military statement said. “Disregarding all warnings made, the cargo boat entered Gazan coastal waters.”

            The Israeli military said humanitarian goods found on the boat would be sent into Gaza.

            Among some 20 people aboard was the former archbishop of Jerusalem, Msgr. Hilarion Capucci, who was convicted of smuggling guns from Lebanon to Israel in 1975 and spent two years in an Israeli prison.

            A reporter for Al Jazeera who was also on board spoke by telephone to television viewers, saying that the Israelis who took over the boat had pointed weapons and assaulted some of those on the ship. The connection to his telephone was then cut.

            Israel has maintained a strict blockade of Gaza since Hamas took power there in a brief civil war with its secular rival, Fatah, in June 2007. In late December, Israel mounted a three-week military assault in Gaza that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, also died.

            A number of boats run by activists have challenged Israel’s control of Gaza’s waters. Israel has let a few boats in and turned others back. The incident Thursday was the first since the war ended last month.

            Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said Thursday that the action against the latest attempt to break the sea blockade “proved that things will be done differently” from now on.

            The Arab League’s permanent observer to the United Nations condemned the interception of the boat as “an act of piracy.”

            In Gaza, John Ging, the director of operations for the United Nations refugee agency there, said Thursday that Israel’s blockade was creating growing misery by choking off basic humanitarian supplies like food, medicine, clothes and blankets, as well as school supplies.

            He also criticized the leadership of Hamas for letting its police force run wild, attacking a distribution center for the needy and carting off supplies.

            “We are neither getting in the volume nor the range of supplies that we need here,” he told reporters at the United Nations, via video link-up. “This is creating a lot of misery among the people.”

            In one example, Ging said that the teachers in the schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency had worked throughout the Israeli bombardment to create a new human rights curriculum. But because Israel was blocking paper supplies, the textbooks and workbooks could not be printed, so some 60 percent of the children in United Nations schools lack books.

            The human rights curriculum was intended to combat extremism, he said, a growing problem in the wake of the Israeli bombardment. Gazans are particularly frustrated, he said, because they have seen news reports about generous donations from around the world stuck just outside the enclave. It is premature to talk about Gaza’s reconstruction until the issue of access for basic humanitarian supplies is fixed, Ging said.

            As for Hamas, Ging called on its leadership to control its rank and file after armed policemen looted blankets and food from a United Nations compound. While Hamas leaders remained in hiding, he said, “those above the ground seem bent on acting in a reckless manner.”

          • BBC:

            Israel expels Gaza aid ship team
            Aid ship in Tripoli, Lebanon, on 2/2/09
            The ship set sail from the Lebanese port of Tripoli

            Israel has expelled activists and journalists on a Lebanese ship carrying aid for Gaza, who were held on Thursday after Israel’s navy seized the ship.

            Israeli forces beat and kicked some those on board, said an al-Jazeera reporter on the ship, although Israel said no “acts of violence” occurred.

            Israel also denied claims its gunboats had fired on the ship, the latest to try to break the blockade on Gaza.

            Israel allowed blood products from the vessel to enter Gaza by road on Friday.

            The Israeli military said no weapons had been found on the ship.

            Earlier it had said the ship could be a security threat or be used for smuggling banned equipment.

            Fifteen people – Syrian and Lebanese nationals – had been transferred to Lebanon and Syria, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told the Associated Press news agency.

            Another three, two Indians and one Briton, were in police custody pending deportation, he said.

            The former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, 84-year-old Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, was among those sent to Syria, reports said.

            The former archbishop had served time in an Israeli jail in the 1970s for his membership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

            “The Israeli army confiscated all our videotapes; we were separated from each other, we were blindfolded and handcuffed,” al-Jazeera reporter Salam Khader said on the Arab satellite television channel.

            “They beat some of us… the soldiers kicked Dr Hani Suleiman [one of the co-ordinators of the ship’s mission], in the chest and back.”

            “During the takeover of the ship, no acts of violence occurred and there was no need to use excessive force,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

            Activists aboard

            Activists said the Togo-flagged Tali ship was carrying medical supplies, food, clothing and toys.

            Under an Israeli-imposed blockade, only basic humanitarian items – mainly food and medicines – are allowed into the territory.

            The flow of goods into Gaza has increased since the recent Israeli military campaign there, but aid agencies say more goods and a wider range of supplies are essential for the strip’s recovery.

            An organiser of the shipment, Maen Bashur, said the ship had been confronted by an Israeli military boat 32km (19 miles) off the Gazan coast late on Wednesday.

            Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Israeli navy had requested the ship head towards Egypt, and only boarded it after it headed back towards Gaza.

            Israel pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, but still controls the strips border crossings, airspace and coastal waters.

            It initially allowed a number of similar ships to dock, but more recently has begun turning them back.

            This was the first time Israeli troops had boarded a vessel seeking to reach Gaza.

  • And we should believe your unsourced hasbara because?

    Al Jazeera had a reporter on board the aid ship – it appears you are intent on discrediting their reportage. Why are you accepting without question IDF ‘official’ reports, when the IDF have been proven time and again to lie and cover up their reprehensible repressions? The only news agencies which are spouting your IDF rubbish are Israeli.

    The ship was searched in both Cyprus and Lebanon – are you going to question that those searches did not accurately detail the ship’s cargo?

    Considering previous documented actions of Israel’s actions toward aid ships like the Dignity, which was rammed three times and had shots fired over its bows, Israel’s latest act of piracy on the high seas is not surprising at all.

    Then you waffle on about Hamas and human shields where it is well documented that the IDF do just that as well. Perhaps the Gazans do say if people won’t believe your lies, tell bigger lies – in regard to the pathetic prevarications of Israeli politicians, IDF and their despicable shills.

  • Lu Ann

    This report of al-Jazeera is a total lie. Official reports completely contradict anything reported in this blog. No shots were fired. There was no humanitarian aid on board. The entire episode was simply another sick move by Israel’s detractors to provoke the media.

    The officer who took control of this “humanitarian” ship was interviewed today on Israeli radio.

    He reported that there was next to NO humanitarian aid on the ship, except a few bottles of water, and some things the crew could have used. No where near “fifty tons.”

    This military man reported this was just another move to provoke the media.

    It’s all a media game when it comes to Gazans.

    It’s really disgusting how far these types of “reports” ignore facts.

    Where are the reports of Hamas using human civilian shields, like woman and children. An act illegal according to international law. Where are the reports of Hamas, which has seventy three seats out of one hundred and thirty two, stealing food and humanitarian aid which Israel sends in — for their own military purposes?

    Regarding the Gazans was once said this wise saying: If people won’t believe your lies. Tell BIGGER lies.

    That’s all they do all day. Complain, and lie to the world.