As word of the mounting death toll (375 Palestinians, 4 Israelis) and Gaza humanitarian crisis spread worldwide, news that a ship carrying medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza, called the Dignity, was set to arrive spread around the Web. I remember hearing about the ship for the first time yesterday. Well this morning, CNN's Carl Penhaul, who was aboard the ship (as was former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney...) confirmed accounts by the ship's captain that they were, in his estimation, deliberately rammed by an Israeli military vessel that observed the ship for nearly an hour, and which Penhaul said must have seen it because the Dignity had "full lights on."
Penhall reported that the Dignity's captain was not contacted by the Israeli ship until after the boat was rammed, and began taking on water. The ship re-routed to Lebanon, after the Captain was told in no uncertain terms that the Israeli ship would open fire if the Dignity continued. Penhall reported that the Israeli military on board the warship accused the Dignity of "being involved in terror operations." Scary stuff, and possibly a violation of maritime law. From the Guardian:
Activists trying to bring aid to Gaza today claimed their boat had been rammed by Israeli gunboats in a "criminal attack" in international waters.
The Free Gaza Movement said its vessel, the Dignity, was intercepted by several Israeli vessels as it was heading to the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli aerial bombardment since Saturday.
One gunboat rammed the Dignity on the port bow side, causing heavy damage, although no one was hurt, the group said.
"[The Dignity] is taking on water and appears to have engine problems," the movement said on its website. "When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.
"The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.
The Guardian also reports that Israeli officials are characterizing the ramming accidental:
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told Reuters there had been no shooting, although two ships made "physical contact".
Palmor said the boat had failed to respond to Israeli naval radio contact and an Israeli vessel "clashed with the ship". He said nobody was hurt and the Israeli ship escorted the aid boat back to Cypriot territorial waters.
Israel declared the coastal territory a closed military zone after it launched air attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza on Saturday in response to Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Israel said the Free Gaza movement boat would not be permitted to dock in the Gaza Strip.
And this from UPI:
In a radio message, the Israelis accused the Gibraltar-registered Dignity of being involved in terrorist activity, the ship's captain said. The Dignity was carrying 16 passengers, including physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and several human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
The patrol boat rammed the Dignity after pursuing the vessel for about 30 minutes before the collision. Crew members said they believe the Dignity was intentionally struck, which Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called "absurd."
Meanwhile, from Xinhua (a Chinese daily,) comes an account of the ship's arrival in Tyre, and a very different explanation of the ramming, which officially is being called "accidental"...
BEIRUT, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The "Free Gaza" ship, "Dignity", rammed by an Israeli patrol vessel on waters near Gaza early Tuesday, arrived at Tyre port in south Lebanon in the afternoon, al-Jazeera TV reported.
The ship reaching the Lebanese water was escorted with a Lebanese navy boat and boats of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
... Lebanese President Michel Suleiman gave orders to the Lebanese navy to escort the boat loaded with supplies to Gaza Strip, after it was rammed by Israeli gunboats.
... Sixteen people including rights activists, doctors and Journalists, along with a crew from al-Jazeera TV boarded the ship at Larnaca port in Cyprus late afternoon Monday, from where they made "Symbolic" attempt to cross the border into Gaza.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman appeared on al-Jazeera saying that its navy prevented the ship because it is full of Journalists and it is "an act of provocation and propaganda."
"This is a propaganda message which we refuse," the spokesman said.
So who was on board the ship (besides Penhall?) From a site called "Ten Percent," dateline yesterday:
The Dignity has left Cyprus & should arrive in Gaza tomorrow around 10am (local). Check the website for updates, www.freegaza.org Israel has declared Gaza a ‘closed military zone’, making sure no one can witness the atrocities. Our boat is going to challenge that closure.
The passenger list is below and includes Cynthia McKinney, a journalist from CNN and three physicians who will stay in Gaza to assist the overworked doctors there. We will also be sending out the list of medicines on board.
(UK) Denis Healey, Captain
Captain of the Dignity, Denis has been involved with boats for 45 years, beginning with small fishing boats in Portsmouth. He learned to sail while atschool and has been part of the sea ever since. He’s a certified yachtmaster and has also worked on heavy marine equipment from yachts to large dredgers. This is his fourth trip to Gaza.
(Greece) Giorgios Klontzas, Relief Captain
Cpt. Klontzas is an experienced sailor and human rights activist. This will be his fourth trip to Gaza.
(Greece) Nikolas Bolos, First Mate
Nikolas is a chemical engineer and human rights activist. He has served as a crewmember on several Free Gaza voyages, including the first one in August.
(Jordan) Othman Abu Falah
Othman is a senior producer with Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
(USA) Cynthia McKinney
Cynthia is a former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.
(Australia) Renee Bowyer
Renee is a schoolteacher and human rights activist. She will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.
(Ireland) Caoimhe Butterly
Caoimhe is a reknowned human rights activist and Gaza Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement. She will be remaining in Gaza to do human rights monitoring, assist with relief efforts, and work on project development with Free Gaza.
(Cyprus) Ekaterini Christodulou
Ekaterini is a well-known and respected freelance journalist in Cyprus. She is traveling to Gaza to report on the conflict.
(Sudan) Sami El-Haj
Sami is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and head of the human rights section at Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
(UK) Dr. David Halpin
Dr. Halpin is an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.
(Germany) Dr. Mohamed Issa
Dr. Issa is a pediatric surgeon from Germany. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.
(Cyprus) Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP
Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.
(UK/Tunisia) Fathi Jaouadi
Fathi is a television producer and human rights activist. He will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.
(Cyprus) Martha Paisi
Martha is a senior research fellow and experienced human rights activist. She is traveling to Gaza to do human rights work and to assist with humanitarian relief efforts.
(UK) Karl Penhaul
Karl Penhaul is a video correspondent for CNN, based out of Bogotá, Colombia. Appointed to this position in February 2004, he covers breaking news around the world utilizing CNN’s new laptop-based ‘Digital Newsgathering’ system. He is traveling to Gaza to report on the ongoing conflict.
(Iraq) Thaer Shaker
Thaer is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
One wonders whether the Israeli government and security forces would have had access to the same information about what appears to be a very public, very high profile operation, and why, if they did, they would invite the public relations nightmare of possibly sinking a ship full of journalists, schoolteachers and human rights activists.
* News reports from Gaza
* Israel waging 'all out war' in Gaza
Please see the article at the site - there are links embedded. I just want to remark upon a few things:
The rocket attacks are curiously timed, and serve the inhabitants of Gaza no good fortune; it should NOT, therefore, be taken as fact that HAMAS is behind them;
The ceasefire was broken on the day after our Presidential elections...you probably did not hear about the attack by Israel at the time;
If anything can be termed a HOLOCAUST, this massacre of civilians certainly can. Let's see if Gaza is retaken by Israel or not. This would put the absolute lie to the statement offered that "there are no efforts to re-occupy Gaza".
I think that I need to listen to another news station - my stool becomes runny every time I hear the lies proffered by 1010WINS in regards to the attack on Gaza. I can only imagine what the survivors of the attack upon the U.S.S. Liberty are thinking.
In other news...looks as if the Holocau$t industry is drying up - many tales are now not being taken as fact.
Oh...in case you didn't hear this on Rush Limbaugh's show...I present to you, dear readers...Barack, The Magic Negro!