Islamabad–On May 12th, the day after a U.S. drone strike killed 24 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, two men from the area agreed to tell us their perspective as eyewitnesses of previous drone strikes.
One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, General Secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. Journalists are operating under very difficult circumstances in the area, pressured by both militant groups and the Pakistani government. Six of his colleagues have been killed while reporting in North and South Waziristan. The other man, who asked us not to disclose his name, is from Miranshah city, the epicenter of North Waziristan. He works with the locally based Waziristan Relief Agency, a group of people committed to helping the victims of drone attacks and military actions. “If people need blood or medicine or have to go to Peshawar or some other hospital,” said the social worker, “I’m known for helping them. I also try to arrange funds and contributions.”
Both men emphasized that Pakistan’s government has only a trivial presence in the area. Survivors of drone attacks receive no compensation, and neither the military nor the government investigate consequences of the drone attacks.
Mr. Dawar, the journalist, added that when he phoned the local political representative regarding the May 12th drone attack, the man couldn’t tell him anything. “If you get any new information,” said the political representative, “please let me know.”
In U.S. newspapers, reports on drone attacks often amount to about a dozen words, naming the place and an estimated number of militants killed. The journalist and social worker from North Waziristan asked us why people in the U.S. don’t ask to know more.
It’s hard to slow down and look at horrifying realities. Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker, (“The Predator War,” October 26, 2009), quoted a former C.I.A. official’s description of a drone attack:
People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. ‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack.
“Human beings running for cover are such a common sight,” Jane Mayer continues, “that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.’”
Just rubble and charred stuff…
The social worker recalled arriving at a home that was hit, in Miranshah, at about 9:00 p.m., close to one year ago. The house was beside a matchbox factory, near the degree college. The drone strike had killed three people. Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and hands. One body was still on fire when he reached there. Then he learned that the charred and mutilated corpses were relatives of his who lived in his village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. They couldn’t pick up the charred parts in one piece. Finding scraps of plastic they transported the body parts away from the site. Three to four others joined in to help cover the bodies in plastic and carry them to the morgue.
But these volunteers and nearby onlookers were attacked by another drone strike, 15 minutes after the initial one. 6 more people died. One of them was the brother of the man killed in the initial strike.
The social worker says that people are now afraid to help when a drone strike occurs because they fear a similar fate from a second attack. People will wait several hours after an attack just to be sure. Meanwhile, some lives will be lost that possibly could have been saved.
The social worker also told us that pressure from the explosion, when a drone-fired missile or bomb hits, can send bystanders flying through the air. Some are injured when their bodies hit walls or stone, causing fractures and brain injuries.
The social worker described four more cases in which he had been involved with immediate relief work, following a drone attack. He didn’t supply us with exact dates, and we weren’t able to find news articles on the internet which exactly matched his accounts. Riaz Khan, an AP reporter covering a drone strike on May 15th, noted differences in details reported by witnesses and official sources. “Such discrepancies are common and are rarely reconciled,” according to Khan (May 15th , Officials: US missiles kill 5 in NW Pakistan‘).
Exasperated by the neglect and indifference people in Waziristan face, especially those who say they have nowhere to hide, the journalist and social worker began firing questions at us.
“If the US had good intelligence and they hit their targets with the first strike,” Safdar asks, “why would the second one be necessary? If you already hit the supposed militant target, then why fire again?”
“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”
“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”
“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”
Reliance on robotic warfare has escalated, from the Bush to the Obama administrations, with very little significant public debate. More than ever before, it is true that the U.S. doesn’t want our bodies to be part of warfare; there’s also not much interest in our consent. All that is required is our money.
But, you get what you pay for in the U.S.A. The social worker and the journalist assured us that all of the survivors feel hatred toward the United States. “It is a real problem,” said Safdar, “this rising hatred.”
Killing people with a biofuels jet fighter will be considered a “clean kill” by Obama. In his book, that makes it o.k.
“Well, if there’s any doubt about the leadership that our military is showing, you just need to look at this F-18 fighter and the light-armored vehicle behind me. The Army and Marine Corps have been testing this vehicle on a mixture of biofuels. And this Navy fighter jet — appropriately called the Green Hornet — will be flown for the first time in just a few days, on Earth Day.”
Can anyone imagine a stupider way to celebrate Earth Day than rolling out yet another version of one of the most lethal fighter-bombers ever invented?
Arkaroola too precious to mine
South Australia’s Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is too precious to turn over to uranium mining, South Australian Senator Nick Minchin says.
The Liberal Senator says he is appalled that the Australian Workers Union is in favour of opening the sanctuary to the uranium industry. The senator and the Greens want a complete ban on uranium mining in the Arkaroola reserve in SA’s mid-north……
“I am shocked and appalled that the Australian Workers Union is advocating the destruction of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary,” Senator Minchin said today.
“It is extraordinary that the AWU wants to turn one of Australia’s most precious and valuable natural wonders into a factory for the production of uranium……
SA Greens MP Mark Parnell says although not all of the 450 submissions to the State Government are currently available online, his information is that over 82 per cent of the published submissions want less mining.
The SA Museum, academics, scientists, business operators and even mining companies are saying Arkaroola is too precious to mine, he said in a statement.
Last year the South Australian Government suspended Marathon Resources’ drilling operations at Mt Gee in the sanctuary, after an investigation found the company had inappropriately buried drill cuttings and other waste material there.
The US claims to have made an agreement with all veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council on a draft sanctions resolution against Iran.
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of Russia and China,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, referring to talks with permanent members of the UN Security Council Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
Clinton told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the draft would be presented to all 15 members of the Security Council on Tuesday –one day after Iran announced a nuclear declaration following trilateral pro-diplomacy talks with non-permanent UNSC members Brazil and Turkey.
Russia and China have long resisted the US campaign for sanctions and urged other powers to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Both countries welcomed the nuclear declaration issued by Iran, Turkey and Brazil.
“We attach importance to and support this agreement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on Tuesday.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also welcomed the declaration as “the politics of a diplomatic solution.” Moscow has stressed that it would never support sanctions meant to “strangle Iran” or harm the Iranian people.
Iran’s partners in the trilateral talks are both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) opposed to the US-led campaign for slapping tougher UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Despite the declaration that paves the way for the realization of a nuclear fuel swap proposal, the US has rebuffed the Iranian announcement, saying that it will continue efforts to impose a fourth round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which it accuses of pursuing a covert military nuclear program.
Tehran rejects the Washington-led accusations, arguing that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has the right to a civilian nuclear program.
Writing about my post from last week on the diversion of civil liberties erosions from non-citizens to citizens, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Charli Carpenter asks what (if anything) can be done to combat this trend:
[I]s it too late for dissent to make a difference? I welcome readers’ ideas. I think many voters thought they’d already taken the appropriate step by electing a progressive, pro-civil liberties leader. With the writing on the wall, what now?
In replying to her question, Matt Yglesias attempts to re-direct blame away from Obama by invoking the Public Opinion Excuse:
I don’t think the answer to her question is particularly difficult — people who want to halt the erosion of civil liberties need to do a better job of persuading people that the erosion of civil liberties would be a bad thing. If you have an incumbent administration being urged by the opposition to seize more power, and the public wants the administration to seize more power, then you get what we have today. People on the good team are sometimes in denial about opinion on this subject, but read the numbers — the public wants Guantanamo Bay open, wants suspects tried in military courts, and thinks we should give up more civil liberties in order to enhance security.
Public opinion on these issues is much more mixed than Matt suggests (the very first poll cited in his link shows the public almost evenly divided — 45-47% — on whether the alleged Times Square bomber should be tried in a civilian court or a military commission). And if public opinion were really as clear and decisive in favor of those policies, it’s hard to explain how Barack Obama — who ran on a platform of reversing them, not as a side issue but as a central plank in his campaign — could have possibly won the election. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Matt’s right about the state of public opinion. His claim — that Presidents in general merely follow what public opinion dictates, and Obama is continuing the erosion of civil liberties because public opinion desires that — is as common as it is mythical, for multiple reasons.
First, Presidents often insist on polices which public opinion rejects. Bush continued and even escalated in Iraq when large majorities opposed the war, and Obama has done the same in Afghanistan (with less pervasive though, at least at times, substantial majoritarian opposition). Obama fought for passage of a health care reform bill in the face of overwhelming public sentiment against it, and he favored the Wall Street bailout under the same circumstances. Obama has strongly condemned, and threatened to take action against, the Arizona immigration law despite widespread public support for it. Clearly, when a President believes a policy is sufficiently important, he’ll insist on it (often successfully) despite public opposition; conversely, when he genuinely opposes a policy, he’ll reject it despite public sentiment in favor. That, I believe, is called leadership.
Second, if Presidents do nothing more than slavishly follow public opinion, then what difference do elections make? If majority sentiment dictates policy outcomes, then who cares who does the implementing?
Third, if Matt is right — that the public favors civil liberties erosions and therefore Obama is eroding civil liberties — doesn’t that absolve Bush and Cheney of blame for what they did? After all, majorities favored the invasion of Iraq, torture, Guantanamo and related policies; isn’t it fair to say that Bush officials were merely following public sentiment?
Fourth, Matt’s argument assumes that Obama really wishes he could restore civil liberties but is simply constrained by public opinion, a proposition for which there is no evidence (and there’s evidence to the contrary, beginning with Obama’s refusal to reverse Bush/Cheney policies regardless of public opinion, contrasted with his pursuit of other unpopular policies, as well as his early opposition to investigations of Bush crimes even in the face of public support for such investigations). There are a litany of factors unrelated to public opinion that could easily be driving Obama to do what he is doing, including a fear of alienating the military and intelligence communities and/or a genuine desire for the powers he has preserved and is enhancing. If that’s true, as it appears to be, then favorable changes in public opinion would have little effect on Obama’s conduct.
Fifth, Obama’s anti-civil-liberties record has extended far beyond what public opinion has called for. I don’t recall any public outcry for a program to assassinate American citizens without due process, or the invocation of new secrecy and immunity claims to protect Bush crimes from judicial review, or the maintenace of secret prisons in Afghanistan. One would be hard-pressed to claim that the public even knows about, let alone is agitating for, such extremist policies, yet Obama vigorously embraces them. He must be doing so for reasons other than public opinion.
Finally, and most important: this Public Opinion Excuse ignores the substantial agency which Obama possesses in shaping our political debates. Presidents have numerous tools for influencing public opinion, and Obama has used none for the purpose of fortifying support for the new Terrorism policies he vowed during the campaign to pursue. He’s actually done the opposite: by advocating for the continuation of so many Bush/Cheney policies, he’s weakened opposition to that approach. In that regard, Matt has it backward: Obama isn’t following public opinion on these questions; public opinion is following Obama.
Our mainstream political debates are invariably framed as Republican v. Democrat. If neither of the two parties’ leadership advocates a particular view, that view will barely be heard (as we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War). When a party occupies the Oval Office, its position is determined almost exclusively by the President and his administration. Here, Republicans have been vehement in their demand for the continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies. Because the Obama White House has largely been unwilling to engage that debate, and has often affirmatively endorsed the Republicans’ central claims, there has been no real “debate” on these issues. If both political parties are seen as endorsing a particular view (or, at best, if one party is seen as vehemently supporting it and the other party is seen as indifferent or afraid to engage), is it really surprising that public opinion will support the view that is most aggressively and clearly defended?
Even if one assumes that Obama secretly wishes he could do more on the civil liberties front, the problem is of his own making. How can an administration that endorses and maintains military commissions possibly make a stirring case in favor of civilian courts? How can a President who repeatedly invokes secrecy to shield Terrorism policies from judicial review possibly convince the public of the need for transparency? Or how could he possibly persuade Americans of the grave evils of Guantanamo when he himself proposes a system of indefinite detention and merely wants to relocate its defining attributes to a new locale? Or how could he convincingly justify the need for oversight when he supports oversight-free eavesdropping, detentions and even assassinations? As is true for any debate, where one side is firm and emphatic in its view, and the other side is, at best, muddled, fearful and largely acquiescent in response, the side that appears to believe in its views and is willing to defend them will easily triumph.
Then there is the even more significant fact that what were once viewed as controversial right-wing, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies have been transformed, under Obama, into bipartisan consensus. Whereas the vast majority of Democrats spent the last eight years claiming to vehemently oppose policies such as indefinite detention, military commissions, and secrecy claims, they now actively defend them or (at best) remain meekly silent because it’s now their political party, rather than the GOP, that is responsible for them. By embracing as his own many of the very policies he vowed to uproot, Obama has gutted the core of public opposition to those policies. Is it really a surprise, then, that public opinion on these questions has worsened under Obama [as but one example, compare the CNN poll on whether Guantanamo should be closed: before Obama’s inauguration, a majority wanted the camp to be closed (51-47%); now, a year into Obama’s presidency and yet another year removed from the 9/11 attacks, a large majority (60-39%) wants it to remain open]?
Of course it would be desirable if public opinion more strongly supported pro-civil-liberties policies. But the reality is that the two political parties have a virtual monopoly on how political debates are conducted, and with few exceptions (such as the Wall Street bailout), if both parties generally support a particular view, then the public will, too, because they will hear so little challenge and opposition to it. Democrats haven’t abandoned civil liberties because the public has; the public (which was clearly prepared to reject the Bush/Cheney approach) has abandoned civil liberties because the Democrats, now that they’re in power, have joined the GOP in doing so.
That’s why I believe that the most promising course of action is to do everything possible to force a change in position by the Democratic Party (through primary challenges, intra-party disputes, and vocal criticisms of the President), as well as by making common cause on an issue-by-issue basis with non-Democrats (as Al Gore did in 2006 with his partnership with Bob Barr) when the opportunity presents itself (witness the newfound and extremely hypocritical though potentially useful GOP concern for civil liberties now that they’re out of power, a trend that could accelerate with a victory today by the war-questioning Rand Paul in Kentucky over his GOP establishment opponent). It shouldn’t be the case, but the two political parties possess a virtual monopoly on the views that are aired in mainstream public debates.
To pretend that Barack Obama is a helpless captive of public opinion rather than one of the principal forces which shape it is the opposite of reality. It would be good if public opinion more strongly supported civil liberties, but as long as Obama joins the GOP in opposing them, hordes of Democrats who once supported such liberties will reflexively follow Obama, making that improvement extremely difficult to achieve.
On 18 May 2010, DCI-Palestine submitted 14 cases to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for investigation. The submission relates to the sexual assault, or threat of sexual assault, of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers, interogators and police between January 2009 and April 2010. The ages of the children range from 13 to 16 years.
DCI-Palestine is becoming increasingly alarmed at reports contained in sworn affidavits received from children that they are being subjected to sexual assault, or threat of sexual assault, in order to obtain confessions.
DCI-Palestine has reviewed 100 sworn affidavits collected from children in 2009, and in four percent of cases, children report being sexually assaulted, whilst in 12 percent of cases, the children report being threatened with sexual assault. The sexual assault and threats of sexual assault documented by DCI-Palestine include grabbing boys by the testicles until they confess and threatening boys as young as 13 years with rape unless they confess to throwing stones at Israeli settler vehicles in the occupied West Bank. DCI-Palestine suspects that these figures may understate the extent of the problem.
In one of the cases documented by DCI-Palestine, a 15 year-old boy recalls his experience after being arrested by Israeli soldiers from his family home at 2am, in September 2009:
‘While sitting on the ground near the truck, a person speaking Arabic approached me and grabbed my hands and ordered me to stand up and accompany him. He grabbed me so violently and pulled me. He forced me to walk with him for about 20 metres and I could see from under the blindfold that we stopped behind a military jeep. He slapped me hard twice and grabbed my testicles so hard and started pressing them. Then, he asked me whether I threw stones and Molotov cocktails and I said I did not. He started shouting and saying ‘liar, your mother’s a c**t.’ He started beating me all over my body and once again he grabbed my testicles and started pressing hard. “I won’t let go of your testicles unless you confess,” he said to me. I felt so much pain and kept shouting. I had no other choice but to confess to throwing stones.’
Each year around 700 Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated and prosecuted in the Israeli military courts. The most common charge is for throwing stones. The children are interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family members and in 2009, over 80 percent of these children provided confessions after a coercive interrogation, of which 32 percent were written in Hebrew, a language few Palestinian children understand. Following their conviction in the military courts, the majority of these children are incarcerated inside Israel in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
DCI-Palestine is requesting that the Special Rapporteur investigates these and other reports relating to the apparent widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to publish the findings.
For further information please see DCI-Palestine’s latest report on Palestinian child prisoners.
Syrian President Bashar Assad says his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, relayed a message from Israeli President Shimon Peres last week that the Zionist entity was willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for Syria cutting its ties with Iran and the “resistance movements”.
Assad made the remark in an interview published Tuesday in Lebanese daily as-Safir.
Last week, Peres took part in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow. He asked Medvedev to relay a message to Assad, with whom the Russian leader met two days later.
On the backdrop of the recent tensions and the calming messages, Assad replied: “Our answer is clear. Reality proves that Israel is not working for peace, so talks will not help.”
Peres told Medvedev, “We are reaching our hand out for peace with Syria, but peace cannot exist without a basic condition: You cannot reach a hand out for peace while continuing to support terror groups.”
He explained that “Israel has no other interpretation for the transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah. The transfer of long-range, precise missiles to the organization is an incitement to war.”
Assad was asked in the interview whether Syria would join a war in the event of an Israeli attack on Lebanon.
“I believe that the Israelis hope to hear the answer to this question, but I won’t fulfill their wish,” the Syrian president replied. “These are military matters which we shall not reveal. We shall not reveal our cards or plans.”
He also addressed claims that his country transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah. “All the public sights of war and peace are imaginary. I say we must worry if the Israelis are silent, not if they talk. The threats you hear and the Scud missiles they talk about have nothing to do with the conditions of war and the possibility that it will take place, just like all the calm attempts which follow do not mean that the chances of peace have grown stronger.”
“We don’t believe the Israelis,” Assad added. “We act based on the assumption that we must be prepared for war and peace at any minute. There are those who made a mistake and erased the resistance option, becoming hostage to the peace option. We must be prepared for both options at the same time.”
The Israeli president’s associates said that a situation in which the Syrians have the Golan but continue to maintain relations with Iran is inconceivable.
*wheat crops bulldozed in a roughly 15 metre wide track clawed into the land by Israeli military bulldozers and tanks.
A dry winter with very late rains –at the end of January, the last possible time for planting, the farmers said –followed by a dry spring evolved into the beginnings of a dry summer.
Called yesterday to accompany farmers in the Faraheen and Khoza’a regions, each east of Khan Younis, we were suddenly busy again. So it goes with the farmers who’ve been forced to give up high-maintenance agriculture and try for the lowest-maintenance crops possible: wheat, rye, lentils. No more trees, they’ve all been bulldozed too many times. Not so many potatoes, nor much parsley–they require more water than the sparse rains provided or the destroyed water cisterns, wells and piping allowed for.
Whereas before the heightened Israeli army aggressions against these visibly unarmed farmers they would live on their land, at the very least daily visit and work on it, they are now resigned to rushed attempts at sowing and harvesting some of Gaza’s richest soils, under the thud and whiz of Israeli army bullets.
We were to join Leila Abu Dagga’s sister to harvest 5 dunams of lentils. But when we arrived were told, “it’s gone, the Israelis bulldozed it all”. [The land in question is near where the young, deaf farmer was shot by an Israeli soldier last year. Over 500 metres from the border, I remember it well (and remember the shock of the Israeli soldiers having shot around us to reach this unarmed farmer just trying to earn 20 shekels a day. The horror: shit, is he dead? The disbelief: but they saw us farming for over 2 hours… why shoot now? The disgust: this kid is just trying to add to his large family’s small income)]
*a roughly 15 metre wide track clawed into the land by Israeli military bulldozers and tanks.
So we moved to Abu Tabbash land, roughly 12 dunams of wheat which we had accompanied the elderly farmer on four months ago. Then, the Israeli army jeeps had lorded atop earth mounds just across the Green Line border fence as Abu Khader walked the length of his accessible land, back and forth, hand-spraying wheat seeds.
*Faraheen farmland [photo: Rada Daniell]
As we arrive, shortly after 7 am, he tells us “we started at 5 am. The jeeps were there, but no shooting yet”. He is neither surprised nor grateful, just matter of fact. Matter of fact is the Israeli soldiers can appear at any moment and shoot at any moment, any whim. There is no pattern, no predictability, and the only seeming reason, quite obviously, is pure harrassment with the intent of driving Palestinians off their land and destroying the agricultural sector.
So farmers like Abu Khader risk working on their land, abadoning the tens, hundreds for some families, of dunams lost to within and near the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”. But they do so at frantic paces, determined to work even the smallest section of their land.
“It’s quite remarkable,” says Adie, one of us accompanying the farmers. “It’s unbelievable that the Israeli army would fire on a scene like this. It’s one of the most tranquil things you could be doing, this hand-harvesting.”
Abu Khader has the bearing, humility, and cracked heels of someone who has toiled the land all his life. His dignity shines, as does his sense of urgency to harvest the crop, and he wastes no time with small-talk or breaks.
Working with three other family members, he hand-plucks the wheat from its earth, noting “it’s so meagre this year. It should be up to here,” gesturing near head level.
They rip, pile and bundle wheat and the dry hay-grass which will serve as animal feed. The bundles are stuffed into large sacs or piled on too-small donkey carts and hauled off.
Day one they’ve harvested from 5 am to 10 am and call it a day. Day two –”there was shooting this morning,” we are told, and an hour and a half another round of shots at visibly unarmed farmers –they work roughly the same, with same intensity, saying “tomorrow we’ll finish, just need an hour and a half”.
We leave, some of the plucked wheat still in small piles to be collected the next morning.
We learn hours later that after farmers and accompaniers left the land, Israeli bulldozers crushed in and lit afire by incendiary devices the land in and along the “buffer zone” including Abu Khader Abu Tabbash’s remaining wheat.
GAZA — Dr. Akram Al-Hallaq, a professor of geography at the Aqsa university in Gaza, said that Israel is persistent in stealing and exhausting Gaza water resources in order to supply its nearby settlements.
In an academic study titled “The Israeli policies of depleting fresh groundwater in the Gaza Strip,” Hallaq affirmed that Israel had drilled a number of wells during the years of its occupation of Gaza along the northern and eastern border areas and since then it has been pumping water from these areas into its territory.
He added that this process reduced the leakage of groundwater of these areas into the coastal aquifer of Gaza
The professor underlined that the Israel’s systematic theft of water resources constitute a threat to the national security of Palestinians and Arabs alike.
His study also pointed out that the Israeli blockade on Gaza played a major role in preventing the development of water and sanitation projects, the thing which adversely affected the services in these two sectors as a result of the ban imposed on the entry of equipment needed for maintaining and rehabilitating water installations there.
Israel warned a number of European states that it would not permit leftist-organizations planning to sail to the Gaza Strip with international aid to complete their mission.
The director of European affairs for the Foreign Ministry, Naor Gilon, met separately with envoys from Turkey, Greece, Ireland and Sweden to convey the message that any of their citizens intending to set sail for Gaza would be stopped before they could reach the coastal territory.
Describing such mission as provocative and in violation of Israeli law, Gilon told the diplomats: “Israel has not intention of allowing these sailboats in Gaza.”
The Foreign Ministry message essentially entails that anybody who tries to sail to Gaza with aid, or who tries to transfer goods into the Hamas-ruled territory, must do so in accordance with procedure.
The diplomats promised to pass the message along to the appropriate sources, said the Foreign Ministry, with some even offering to help prevent their citizens from attempting the mission.
Earlier Monday, Israeli security forces released a Turkish national arrested this month for allegedly belonging to an outlawed Islamic group, and were set to deport him later in the day.
Izzet Shahin, a volunteer for the Turkish NGO Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), was arrested in the West Bank by the Israel Defense Forces and was then transferred to the Shin Bet for investigation.
IHH, who had been organizing a Gaza aid boat planned to depart at the end of the month, was outlawed in Israel a few years ago.
According to the IHH website, the organization had been organizing a “major initiative…to deliver aid via the sea to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an embargo for over three years.”
“Hundreds of concerned people will set out on 10 ships in May to take over 5,000 tons of relief aid and materials to Gaza,” the website statement said,