Several crew members of the latest ship attempting to breach the Gaza naval blockade have accused the Israeli security forces of attacking them with tasers as their ship was boarded in international waters. Israel has vehemently denied the use of excessive force during the take-over of the Estelle, a Swedish-based ship crewed by 30 people, including five European parliamentarians and a former Canadian parliamentarian.
The ship was 30 miles off the coast of Gaza when Israel’s navy intercepted the vessel; its crew is being accused of attempting to illegally enter Israel. Nine members of the crew from Greece, Italy and Spain signed a confession of illegal entrance given to them by Israeli authorities and have been released. “Our lawyer is working on a new statement which would say the crew was taken to Israel against their will and if the authorities would agree on such a text then most [of the remaining] members would likely sign it,” the Ship to Gaza’s media coordinator Mikael Löfgren said.
No humanitarian supplies were found, save some wheelchairs, according to the Israeli army spokesperson Avital Liebovich. “All the talk about humanitarian aid is a lie and a provocation,” she told AFP.
Löfgren called Liebovich’s comments outright propaganda by the Israeli government. “There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of people that have seen what we have in our cargo and we also have photographs of the cargo,” he said.
Dror Feiler, one of the spokespersons of Ship to Gaza, was onboard the ship and is currently being held separately from the others. Feiler is a Swedish citizen born in Israel and is being held accountable as an Israeli citizen. The organisation and Feiler himself maintain that he is no longer an Israeli citizen, having foregone his citizenship years ago in protest against Israel’s policy towards Palestinians. “As far as we and Feiler are aware, his citizenship was revoked years and years ago,” Löfgren stated. He also said that most of their members were prepared to stay in Israel until Feiler is able to leave with them, out of fear of what would happen to him once they left.
The Palmer Report, a report published by a United Nations panel of enquiry following the 2010 flotilla massacre, is one of Israel’s main justifications for continuing the blockade. “It is not a legal document,” Löfgren said, “but a diplomatic effort from the UN to try and solve the diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel that followed the 2010 flotilla massacre.” Nine activists, mostly from Turkey, onboard a flotilla had been killed by Israeli security forces boarding the ships. The report concluded Israel had legal grounds for the blockade but criticised their methods.
The Swedish foreign ministry released a statement on Saturday which declared Ship to Gaza’s goals and Sweden’s policies are very much the same, but they could not endorse their activities due to the danger the members would be putting themselves in.
Ship to Gaza also had their website attacked on Saturday as events at sea were developing. The attack brought down the website for several hours and their information technology experts have concluded it was intentional and planned.