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Entries in Tzipi Livni (3)


Gaza LiveBlog: Israel Forces Attack Freedom Flotilla, Up to 19 Killed (31 May)

0755 GMT, 1 JUNE: Updates continue in our LiveBlog, "The Politics After the Attack", for Tuesday.

2330 GMT: The New York Times reports one administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity concerning the future of Israeli-Palestinian talks mediated by Senator George Mitchell. In terms of the divide between the Israeli Government and the Obama Administration, the official said: “We’re not sure yet where things go from here.”

Mitchell is still expected to attend the Palestine Investment Conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday and Thursday.

2200 GMT: Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, head of the Israeli Navy, instructs the troops intercepting the Gaza flotilla:


Gaza Flotilla Video: Questions from Last Report Before Israeli Attack
Gaza Video: “If You’re Watching This, The Flotilla Has Been Attacked"

2110 GMT: The first result of the UNSC emergency meeting: Members urged Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip!

Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said the bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the "counterproductive and unacceptable" blockade of Gaza had been heeded.

Most members of the 15-nation body joined the call for an investigation.

2030 GMT: IDF releases pictures of weapons found on the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship.

1930 GMT: The opposition leader Tzipi Livni gave an interview to the Turkish channel, TRT. She said that "there was a need to stop these ships" which were "not on a humanitarian mission".


Gaza Flotilla Attack: Israel Line “We Are Sorry but It Was a Life-Threatening Situation!”

1915 GMT: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu criticized Israel harshly at UNSC emergency meeting. Remarkably, he said:
This assault against 600 civilians from 32 countries can never be justified. We watched a live barbarian show.

Israel committed a crime. It is a crime committed by the state itself. Any state committing this crime will loose its legitimacy in the international arena.

The day when the line between terrorists and states blurred is today, a day leaving a bloody stain on the history of humanity.

1855 GMT: Speaking to Channel 10, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said:
Israel is a sovereign state and cannot accept the undermining of its sovereignty. Israel has stopped ships in international waters before and when ships refuse to accede to warnings and obey instructions, we have the right to board them under international law.

1845 GMT: Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was scheduled to meet with former US Secretary of State George Shultz on Monday, canceled his meeting. He said:
Israel is a democratic country with an obligation to defend its citizens and cannot condone the arrival of Gaza-destined goods and ships without inspecting them. The violent and provocative flotilla was backed by Hamas, whose support was that of terror and opposition to peace.

1830 GMT: IDF released a new statement:
The following is a summary of the number of injuries and casualties in today’s incident in which IDF naval forces were met with extremely violent resistance on board the Mavi Marmara.  According to the most recent reports, a total of seven soldiers were wounded – four soldiers were moderately wounded, of which two were initially in critical condition, as well as an additional three soldiers who were lightly wounded.  Among the violent activists, there were nine casualties as a result of the soldiers defending themselves.

It should be emphasized that both the State of Israel and the IDF made repeated calls to the flotilla, telling them that all goods and humanitarian aid could be transferred according to the secure and approved methods in place today, as is done on a near daily basis.  Unfortunately, this was not the case. IDF naval forces were met with premeditated violence, evident by the activists’ use of clubs, metal rods, and knives, as well as the firing of two weapons stolen from the soldiers, causing for defensive action on behalf of the forces who felt their lives were endangered.

1815 GMT: UN Security Council's emergency meeting started.

1730 GMT: The Mavi Marmara was docked at Ashdod. 500 activists on board will be arrested of deported.

1700 GMT: Finally, pictures of Mavi Marmara reached media after 15 hours. The ship is being escorted by Israeli Navy off the port of Ashdod.

1645 GMT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he regretted deaths but also added that Israeli troops had right to self-defense.

1630 GMT: CNN correspondent Atia Abawi said: "Israeli government confirms that 25 activists are in stages of deportation and at least 50 are detained after not giving them identification".

1620 GMT: The details of the phone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama were given by the White House:
This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said he understood the Prime Minister's decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today's events. They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.

1605 GMT: Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that NATO's spokesman James Appathurai had stated that the organisation would be gathered extraordinarily, at the request of Turkey.

NATO issued a very short statement earlier today: "NATO is deeply concerned about the loss of life in this incident. We look forward to a further establishment of the facts of what has happened."

1600 GMT: IDF said Defne Y, the 5th ship in Gaza flotilla, cleared of its crew - Mavi Marmara currently being brought into Ashdod Port.

1555 GMT: Al Jazeera English correspondent Sherine Tadros reports, "We're hearing 14 activists have agreed to be deported and on way home;50 taken to prison in southern Israel resisting deportation."

1550 GMT: Pictures of wounded activists were released. Plastic handcuffs during the transport of heavily wounded ones are noteworthy.

1548 GMT: The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday afternoon for an emergency session that will start at 1 P.M., New York time.

1545 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Chile: "This is a state terrorism."

1515 GMT: While on his way to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: "This is clearly a piracy. Israel must apologize and answer. According to unconfirmed information, we have around 50 wounded and 10 martyries. No country is above the international law."

Meanwhile, tens of thousands people are protesting in front of Israel's Consulate General in Istanbul.

1500 GMT: Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Israel:
Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians. We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel. This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations.

Besides the initiatives being conducted by our Embassy in Tel Aviv, this unacceptable incident is being strongly protested and explanation is demanded from Israeli Ambassador in Ankara, who has been invited to our Ministry.

Whatsoever the motives might be, such actions against civilians who are involved only in peaceful activities cannot be accepted. Israel will have to bear the consequences of these actions which constitute a violation of international law.

May God bestow His mercy upon those who lost their lives. We wish to express our condolences to the bereaved families of the deceased, and swift recovery to the wounded.

1440 GMT: Israel's Portrayal. Amidst the rush of Israeli depictions of the attack --- with the continuing use of the word "lynching", now from the commandos who carried out the assault --- this story stands out from a "Ron Ben Yishai" in YNet:

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapon.

1435 GMT: Washington's Reaction. The US statement, given by White House spokesman Bill Burton, is far more restrained than the UN denunciation of Israel (1330 GMT) and even Britain's expression of concern (1035 GMT). Burton said the Obama administration "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained" and officials are "currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy".

1430 GMT: The 4th ship in the flotilla is now being brought into port in Ashdod.

1420 GMT: The Israeli Line. The Israeli military has released its version of today's attack on the Freedom Flotilla, complete with an aerial video:


1410 GMT: Glenn Greenwald, in a bitter denunciation of the Israeli attack, offers an overview both of the Freedom Flotilla and of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

1400 GMT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his trip to Washington. He was due to meet President Obama tomorrow.

1330 GMT: The British Government, via Foreign Secretary William Hague, has issued this statement:
I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.‪ ‪

We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries. ‪

This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

1200 GMT: An Al Jazeera correspondent reports from Ashdod: "Israeli hecklers continue to make if hard for us to report the story....They are only heckling Arab media, such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya....While Arab protestors and left-wing Israelis escorted away by police, they don't seem to be doing much to stop the right-wing hecklers."

1105 GMT: The 2nd boat of the flotilla is nearing port in Ashdod.

1045 GMT: Amidst protests in Turkey against the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, the Turkish Ambassador to Israel has been recalled. Israeli authorities have advised citizens not to travel to Turkey.

The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister has condemned Israel: “This operation will leave a bloody stain on the history of humanity.”

1035 GMT: The first ship of the flotilla is now in Ashdod. Al Jazeera English is reporting up to 19 dead.

The United Nations has issued a statement: "Such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza."

1015 GMT: Justifying the Attack. Back from a break to find more of the same on Israeli side --- Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has claimed that the deaths resulted from a "provocation" by the passengers of the flotilla: "On the deck we found weapons which were used against the forces. The organizers' intent was violent and the results were unfortunate. Israel regrets the loss of life. We called the organizers once and again the stop the provocations."

Israel Defense Forces are claiming via Twitter, "5 soldiers injured during flotilla mission --- 2 severely and 3 moderately".

0845 GMT: The Arab League has said it will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow over the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

0830 GMT: More footage of the Israel attack, this time from a Turkish source, complementing the video we have posted, before commandoes boarded the ship. There are graphic images of wounded and a correspondent declaring, "We are under attack from all sides."

0820 GMT: Schools have been closed and shelters opened in the Israeli port of Ashdod, where Israeli forces are towing the Freedom Flotilla.

0815 GMT: We have posted video of the last report from Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal from the lead ship of the Freedom Flotilla, made moments before Israeli commandos boarded. I have asked some questions, in light of Elshayyal's report, about the Israeli account that commandos were merely defending themselves.

0745 GMT: Amidst the presentation by Israeli officials of their version of this morning's events, we post a video --- made before the assault --- by a Free Gaza Movement member: "If You're Watching This, The Flotilla Has Been Attacked". The speaker, Caoimhe Butterly, anticipates the post-attack political contest which is unfolding on this LiveBlog.

0730 GMT: Speaking on Al Jazeera English, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan counters the Israeli allegations: "None of those [on the ships] was part of Hamas; they were supporters and activists for the human rights of Palestinians."

0725 GMT: As Al Jazeera English tries to assess the Israeli military's press conference, members of the crowd in Ashdod stand behind the reporter with a large Israeli flag.

0720 GMT: Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning for those killed in the Freedom Flotilla.

0715 GMT: The "Lynching" of the Commandos. Israeli military spokeswoman Liebovich responds to a question:

"If you have one soldier and you have a dozen activists attacking that soldier, this is a lynch. When the passengers on this ship are trying to break the soldier's legs and arms, this is what I call a lynch. This is what happened....We had no intention to confront these passengers."

(Liebovich adds that she is "sure" the flotilla's passengers were not human rights activists but were connected with Hamas.)

Readers may compare this "lynch" to the live images aboard the ship when the commandos landed, currently being re-broadcast in the LiveFeed.

0710 GMT: The Israeli Propaganda Push. With communications with the aid ships cut off (CNN rather hopelessly is using vague reports from a correspondent in Cairo and then saying, "We have been unable to contact anyone in the flotilla"), Israeli authorities are trying to fill the space with their case.

Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Amital Liebovich has given a press briefing that Israeli commandos faced "severe violence" --- a "lynch" --- by the flotilla's passengers with "sharp items" and "knives": "Live fire was used."

Liebovich says six Israeli commandos were injured "as well as" 10 passengers killed.

Liebovich insists, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza" and adds, "The passengers of this flotilla...prepared themselves for violence against their soldiers."

Liebovich's press conference is complemented by this Israeli military statement: “During the takeover, the soldiers encountered serious physical violence by the protesters, who attacked them with live fire.” The "lynch" theme had already appeared, before the briefing, in The Jerusalem Post.

0644 GMT: The Israeli Line (cont.). The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pushing a film clip of the Israeli military issuing a warning to the Freedom Flotilla before boarding the Mavi Marmara: "The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the Ashdod port."

I've already seen the clip on Al Jazeera English.

0642 GMT: Contrary to other reports, Israel authorities say the flotilla ships will be towed to the port of Ashdod.

0640 GMT: Political Reaction. Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas has asked the Palestinian Authority to suspend all negotiations --- direct or indirect --- with Israel.

0635 GMT: Israeli Army says four Israeli naval commandos were injured: 1 seriously, 1 moderately, 2 lightly. It claims "light ammunition" was coming from flotilla ships so their troops "fought back".

0625 GMT: The last blog entry from Abbas Al Lawati from the attacked ships:

I've just heard that Israel is expected send divers to take control of vessels from below.

There were reports of helicopters flying overhead a little while ago but it turns out it was a flase alarm. There was, however, a flashing light hovering above one of the challenger ships. It could be a helicopter, possibly commandos. The Mavi Marmara is massive so I doubt commandos will approach us but both Challengers are just small passenger boats.

0615 GMT: The Israeli Line. David Saranga of the Israeli Consulate in New York gives an early indication of how West Jerusalem will defend the military operation, despite the 16 deaths.

Saranga lifts this line from London's Daily Telegraph, in an article on the Israeli attack: "Marine commandos had opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the ships, the [Israeli] private channel 10 said."

(Minutes later, Saranga points readers to a page, "The Jewish Internet Defense Force", which recycles the line about axes/knives.)

In Israel, police have declared a heightened state of emergency, deploying thousands of forces around the country. A crowd in the Israeli port of Ashdod have been heckling the crew of Al Jazeera Arabic.

0605 GMT: The Turkish Government has condemned the Israeli attack. A crowd of demonstrators have surrounded the house of the Israeli Ambassador and asked him to leave the country.

The ship attacked this morning, the Mavi Marmara, is Turkish-registered.

0603 GMT: The Israeli attack was on the Mavi Marmara, one of the six ships in the flotilla. In a report from the ship just before communications were cut during the raid, Jamal Elshayyal of Al Jazeera said two people had been killed and organisers were ordering passengers to go inside the ship's cabin. The ship's white flag had been raised.

Sounds of live fire could be heard as Elshayyal reported, despite the raising of the flag of surrender.

0600 GMT: We are continuing the live feed from Turkish outlets of the Freedom Flotilla. Warning: images may be distressing.

0545 GMT: We wake this morning to find that overnight Israeli forces have attacked the six ships of the "Freedom Flotilla" carrying aid to Gaza.

Israel Army Radio says at least 16 members of the convoy were killed and more than 30 injured when troops boarded the flotilla. The assault took place in international waters, 65 kilometres (40 miles) off the Gazan coast.

The attack by armed Israeli soldiers was accompanied by helicopters. Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops used live ammunition.

Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire "after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects".

The Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, say the ships are now being towed to the Israeli town of Haifa, instead of the port of Ashdod, where Israel said members of the flotilla would be held in detention. The Movement claims the step is to avoid waiting journalists.

UPDATED: Gaza Flotilla Attack: Israel Line "We Are Sorry but It Was a Life-Threatening Situation!"


Today, Israel's Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was giving an interview to ABC Australia. She said: These soldiers are our children. Since they were under attack by these activists, they needed to react in order to defend themselves."


Israeli Defense Forces and politicians said that they warned the ships of the Freedom Flotilla to follow the Israeli navy until the Ashdod port. The response they got was: "Negative, our destination is Gaza".


Then Israeli officials produced helicopter videos allegedly showing civilians using metal objects against and throwing firebombs and stun grenades to Israeli commandos. Israel Defense Forces said its rules of engagement allowed troops to open fire in what it called a "life-threatening situation". The IDF also confirmed that at least eight navy commandos had been wounded, at least two of them seriously.


Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said: "The organisers' intent was violent, method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome."


Middle East Inside Line: Mitchell's Talks in Palestine; Israel's Official Perception of Peace

Mitchell in Ramallah: US envoy George Mitchell was in Ramallah on Friday for meetings with the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and the PA's top negotiator Saeb Erekat. Both Palestinians reiterated their call upon Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Though the Palestinian Liberation Organization's executive committee has not made a formal decision yet, Erekat said:
If the price that we will pay for saying yes to Mitchell will be more settlements and more dictations, that's a big question mark about the possibility of continuing.

Now the Israeli government has a choice, either peace or settlements, and it can't have both.

Following Defense Minister Ehud Barak's request to delay the demolition date of illegal residential structures in the West Bank, Israeli officials told the High Court of Justice that they may legalize the Givat Hayovel outpost in the West Bank.

Livni's Call for an Agreement: In an interview with Haaretz, the opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) on Thursday called to combine the forces of "the two large Zionist parties in Israel" - Kadima and Likud - to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Livni said:
The prime minister is the one preventing the change....Change is possible, but it will not be done with the agreement of the ultra-Orthodox parties. They have no reason [to agree], as long as Likud is the ruling party. Likud has bound its political destiny and all Israelis' fate to the ultra-Orthodox politicians' whims....Change is possible and the keys to change are in the hands of the Zionist parties representing the majority in Israel.

Israel's Official Perception of Peace: In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said: "No matter what we do, I do not see a Palestinian leader who is willing to accept what [Yasir] Arafat rejected, and I don’t see a Jewish prime minister who can give more than what [Ehud] Barak offered. Therefore, I see it as a dead end."

Shalom stated that the Palestinian Authority was already functioning like a de facto state. “True, they don’t have borders,” he said, “but we also don’t have borders.” He described the proximity talks as "bypass" talks and said their focus should be on economic projects, development of industrial areas, and joint projects in the spheres of electricity, sewage, water and infrastructure assistance. They could also increase freedom of movement in the West Bank, through the lifting of roadblocks, and help the Palestinians fight terrorism and enhance security.

Israel's Security: On Friday, President Shimon Peres told US envoy Mitchell that Israel placed security at the top of the agenda for the upcoming talks.

Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that FBI Director Robert Mueller came to Israel to discuss international crime and joint U.S-Israeli efforts to counter “terrorism” with Israeli Police Chief David Cohen.

Cohen said that the talks were positive and cooperation between security agencies in Israel and US had been fruitful in "the fight against organized and computer crimes as well as the fight against terrorism".