Some of the aid workers and activists arrested from Freedom Flotilla have been released from Israeli detention and are beginning to tell their stories of the botched Israeli raid that killed between nine and nineteen activists and injured nearly sixty more. The exact number of casualties remains unclear because of Israel’s effort to control the flow of information surrounding the attack.Just before the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships headed to Gaza Monday morning, the army cut off all communications to the ship, preventing any information about the operation from being reported. This was followed by the release of carefully doctored military videos aimed at blaming the aid workers whose ships were attacked from the air and sea by Israeli forces.
But the accounts of the aid workers finally being released from prison and able to tell what happened during the attack paint a far different picture. Turkish citizen Nilufer Cetin, the wife of the ship engineer on the Mavi Marmara, was one of the first to be released, along with her one year old baby. She said that the Israeli troops attacking the Mavi Marmara from the sea and air began firing at the aid workers before even landing on the ship.
She told reporters from British Guardian newspaper that, ‘The operation started immediately with firing. First it was warning shots, but when the Mavi Marmara wouldn’t stop these warnings turned into an attack. There were sound and smoke bombs and later they used gas bombs. Following the bombings they started to come on board from helicopters.’
‘I am one of the first passengers to be sent home, just because I have baby. When we arrived at the Israeli port of Ashdod we were met by the Israeli interior and foreign ministry officials and police; there were no soldiers. They asked me only a few questions. But they took everything – cameras, laptops, cellphones, personal belongings including our clothes,’ she continued.
The captain of another of the humanitarian aid ships, Kutlu Tiryaki, said, ‘We continuously told them we did not have weapons, we came here to bring humanitarian help and not to fight.”
He added, ‘The attack on the Mavi Marmara came in an instant: they attacked it with 12 or 13 attack boats and also with commandos from helicopters. We heard the gunshots over our portable radio handsets, which we used to communicate with the Mavi Marmara, because our ship communication system was disrupted. There were three or four helicopters also used in the attack. We were told by Mavi Marmara their crew and civilians were being shot at and windows and doors were being broken by Israelis.’
The first aid workers to be deported by Israel returned to Greece and Turkey on Wednesday morning, and the Israeli government announced plans to deport the nearly 700 remaining in detention late Wednesday or Thursday morning.