The Al Jazeera interview about the Israeli “hijacking” of the Freedom Flotilla in international waters on Sunday.
Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
Freedom Flotilla Coalition spokesperson David Heap has accused Israeli forces of brutally attacking the international campaigners on board the Al Awda (The Return) fishing boat trying to breach the illegal blockade of Gaza Strip with humanitarian supplies.
He also said from past experience the first action after the military boarded the boat was to cut off satellite communications: “They don’t want the world to see what is going on.”
Heap told Al Jazeera in an interview that the actions of the Israeli military were driven by “guilt”.
Meanwhile, RNZ reports that the Unite Union says the Israeli military had detained its leader Mike Treen among the 40 protesters, parliamentarians and journalists on board.
He was part of the Freedom Flotilla stopped by Israeli forces as they were nearing Gaza where they planned to deliver medical supplies.
Kia Ora Gaza spokesperson Roger Fowler said Treen and other detainees were being held in Givon Prison.
Unite’s national secretary Gerard Hehir said the boats were in international waters when they were detained and taken to the southern Israeli port of Ashod.
Unite is calling on the government to demand the Israeli authorities release Treen and the other international campaigners.
Breaking the blockade
The flotilla, carrying protesters from 15 countries, wants to break an 12-year-old Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave.
The Green Party wants the government to demand a safe passage for the flotilla which has been intercepted by Israeli forces on its way to Gaza.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was detained in 2016 when part of a similar flotilla was intercepted by the Israeli Defence Forces.
Unite’s Hehir said Treen was on a “peaceful mission” to deliver medicine and was “attacked and detained” by Israeli forces.
“This is not about security, it is about Israel treating Gaza as the world’s biggest prison, killing, maiming and kidnapping anyone who even approaches the walls, wires and blockades they have built around Gaza territory [that] the rest of the world has clearly said is illegally occupied by Israel.”
Hehir said the union was “very proud” of Treen, who was expected back in New Zealand next week.
Davidson told RNZ past flotilla interceptions had ended in deaths.
“While in October 2010 10 peace flotilla activists were killed when their vessel was boarded by Israeli commandos, there haven’t been any killings I understand since then, although there have been further flotillas,” she said.
“We were very clear on my flotilla that we were a peace flotilla, and that we were not going to resist any detention, but that we were going to request safe passage to break the illegal blockade that is preventing the Palestinian people of Gaza living full lives.”
Davidson said the international community should be demanding an end to the illegal blockade, and asking Israel to stop impeding the flotilla’s passage to Gaza to deliver medical supplies.
The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with RNZ and is also sharing with the humanitarian group Kia Ora Gaza.