Gaza flotilla activists deported, but some remain unaccounted for

UPDATE, 4 June 3pm: Ismael Patel, one of the UK eyewitnesses on board the Mavi Marmara spoke from an Istanbul hotel yesterday and is due to return to the UK and attend a press conference in London today. He said:

“On Sunday night three Israeli frigates came within about half a mile of us. It was pitch black but we could see the lights on the ships and we realised that we were going to have a difficult night.

“Nothing happened until 4am (local time) when we heard quite a lot of speed boats coming towards us – they might have been into double figures.

“As soon as they started approaching tear gas was fired and sound bombs were dropped on the deck.

“No warning was given, we were in international waters about 100 miles away from the shore.

“There were some hose pipes which were used to repel the soldiers as they landed and after 10-15 minutes they moved away. Then a helicopter arrived and started firing rubber bullets down on us.

“I was on the second deck at the back, so I had a view of the top deck and the sides as well.

“Two soldiers appeared, moved away, then a second helicopter came overhead and they started firing live bullets onto the deck.

“I personally witnessed four deaths in front of me, one was shot in the back of his head as he was running away.

“He fell two feet away from me so I had to drag him away from the firing, it was very traumatising and yes, I feared for my life.

“After a few minutes I took over the tannoy system and I said ‘we surrender, please don’t fire’ and told people to put their hands on their knees to show they had no weapons.

“As I was doing that people were bringing the injured onto the floor in front of me. It felt like it carried on for a lifetime.

“At the end of the raid we counted 28 people had been shot and some were bleeding profusely.

“It all ended at about 10am and we were rounded up, told to sit down and plastic straps were tied around our wrists.

“We were kept in that position until Tuesday and that was the worst moment.

“People weren’t allowed to eat, drink, and we didn’t know what was going to happen to us because we thought we’d been kidnapped. That was the most frightening part because we didn’t know if the world knew what had happened.”

UPDATE, 4 June 11am — Alex Harrison and the other UK eyewitness from the flotilla just landed in Heathrow airport. Sky News covered. We have her number if you need it — call us (number at end of this press release).

UPDATE, 3 June 11am — All four of the Palestinian citizens of Israel are now out of jail. All four been put under house arrest until the 8th (we had previously understood that only Raed Saleh was under house arrest, but have now confirmed that it is all four).  The remaining British activists are believed to have been put on the planes to Turkey. We are trying to get in contact with them.


ISM London, 4.30pm, Wednesday 2 June

At least 37 British citizens currently held by Israel are resisting attempts to deport them until all flotilla prisoners are released at the same time.

Israeli spokespeople have said all foreign activists will be deported by the end of the day.

However four Palestinian citizens of Israel among the activists have been remanded and face criminal charges. Free Gaza Movement activists say they will non-violently resist any attempts to deport them until all prisoners are released together.

Lawyers from Israeli civil rights NGO Adalah said that among the four charged are Ms. Lubna Masarwa of Al Quds University and Sheikh Raed Salah, the Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel (northern branch).

Israeli officials have prevented lawyers from speaking to the prisoners today, and there are fears they will be violently rushed onto planes and out of the country – possibly to Turkey. If they manage to do so, the Palestinian passengers will remain behind in prison.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said in Parliament today that Israel has blocked consular access to some of the British prisoners, with only 28 having been contacted so far

All of the activists were kidnapped in international waters during Israel’s raid on the flotilla of aid vessels from the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish NGO IHH in the early hours of Monday morning.

Israel is still refusing to release the names of the dead people, two days after the massacre. We still do not know the final death toll. Reports have ranged from nine to 19 dead.

It is believed that six were Turkish nationals. The nationalities of the rest are yet unknown.

The bodies of the Turkish dead will be flown home later today

For more information contact:

ISM London, 07913 067 189
Sharyn Lock (Free Gaza Movement, England) 07881 651 259

Gabrielle Rubin, Adalah +972 528 332430 or +972 4 9501610

Vittorio Arrigoni (Italy, based in Gaza) +972 5977 50820
Eva Bartlett (Canada, based in Gaza) +972 5987 10648
Adie Mormech (England, based in Gaza) +972 5977 17696
Bianca Zammit (Malta, based in Gaza) +972 5975 89688