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by Sharon Rondeau

The Mavi Marmara was the scene of a deadly altercation between IDF commandos and pro-Palestinian activists on May 31, 2010.

(May 31, 2010) — Nine people were killed after a clash between Israeli defense forces and Palestinians aboard a ship which had ignored several warnings from Israel not to break through its blockade of the Gaza area.

Israel had broadcast the following radio warning to the six-ship flotilla:

If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade.”

A video of the warning provided before Israeli soldiers boarded the ship can be found here.

According to ABC News, on May 28, nine ships set out “in an attempt to break through Israel’s 3-year-old blockade of the Hamas-run coastal territory.”  The ships were said to be carrying many tons of humanitarian aid and “600 pro-Palestinian activists” and were sponsored by the organization “Free Gaza” and the IHH, “a humanitarian relief foundation affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.”   The group of ships has been called the “Freedom Flotilla.”

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, described the IHH as “a violent and radical organization acting under the cover of humanitarian activity.”

CNN had reported on May 30 that Israeli warships had “shadowed” the flotilla which had proceeded “in defiance of an Israeli blockade.”  A Free Gaza member had indicated that they heard the Israeli radio warning.

The same report indicated that the IDF had offered to allow the ships to dock at a harbor in Ashdod and screen the cargo, as Gaza was not open to ships.  The IDF’s message was quoted as “The Israeli government has decided to prevent all ships from reaching the Gaza shore to prevent any attempts to bring in ammunition or missiles that could potentially harm Israeli citizens.”

Signs of a possible confrontation were evident when Israel said it would not allow the flotilla of ships to make port in Gaza, as Osama Qashoo of the Free Gaza organization stated, “We are determined. We are going to bust through the Israeli navy.”

After Israeli forces took over the ships, a senior member of Hamas called it “crimes against humanity and against our Palestinian people. We call on all members of the Arab and Muslim people to launch protests of rage of solidarity.”

Despite the protests of pro-Palestinian groups, Turkey had not endorsed the flotilla, and Cyprus had forbidden activists from boarding ships headed for Gaza.

Before today’s incident, Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel’s prime minister, had questioned whether or not “the flotilla is really interested in helping people in Gaza, or just wants to ‘make a political point.'”

Reports here and here mention the “bloody” altercation between the IDF and the flotilla but fail to say that the ships had defied the warnings of the IDF and had turned down an offer from Egypt to use one of its ports to deliver the purported aid.

A follow-up report states that the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which the battle occurred, has docked in Ashdod following the bloodshed.  Israeli officials have stated that “activists” on board the ship are from 38 different countries.  Some will be brought to a detention center and others will leave the country.

Medical care was provided to any passenger on the ship who needed it.

Video footage from the IDF shows that the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara severely beat IDF soldiers with metal rods and chairs when they boarded the ship to stop it from docking in Gaza.  At least one soldier was thrown overboard by the boat’s passengers.

An activist who identifies herself as a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former State Department employee was interviewed on board the Mavi Marmara before the Israeli takeover here.

A report from an IDF spokesperson states that the political leadership ordered the IDF to stop the flotilla from reaching the Gaza strip and shows the weapons that were found on board the Mavi Marmara.

A group from Indonesia condemned the “Israeli attack” on the ship, and another report indicates  that at least one of the ships in the flotilla, the “Rachel Corrie,” is “a Malaysian and Irish partnership.”  Rachel Corrie was an American from Washington State, a member of a group called the International Solidarity Movement which was “trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian building in the Rafah refugee camp located in the Gaza Strip, when an Israel army bulldozer ran her over, crushing her to death.”

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