Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kevin Neish safely out of Israel, witnessed horrors on Mavi Marmara

from Zoe Blunt

Victoria peace activist Kevin Neish reports he barely escaped with his life when Israeli armed forces attacked a humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters on Monday morning.

Neish was aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish vessel that was stormed by Israeli commandos in a brutal raid on unarmed civilians bringing medical supplies, school supplies, and construction materials to Gaza. He said he and other passengers had transferred from the Challenger II after it began taking on water in the Mediterranean on Friday.

Neish watched in horror as Israeli soldiers gunned down civilians from helicopters as the raid began, and he saw the bloody bodies of at least nine people killed on the Mavi Marmara. He flatly rejects allegations that people on the ship were armed or that they attacked the soldiers. A videotape produced by the IDF purports to show activists hitting the soldiers with sticks and stones, but its legitimacy is in question.

The Israelis kidnapped some 600 people bringing humanitarian aid to
Gaza, and held them in prison for two and a half days. Neish
witnessed the Israelis savagely beating Turkish activists. He said he
was "brutalized" by the officers, who left him and other passengers
tied up for 25 hours. His arms are deeply bruised by the plastic
handcuffs. His captors menaced him with assault rifles and attack
dogs.and repeatedly threatened to kill him. They would not allow Neish
or the other prisoners to sleep while they were in custody.

Neish was deported late Wednesday night and flown to Istanbul with the
last of the prisoners. His captors kept most of his belongings,
including his cell phone, identification, credit cards, and all his
cash. The Israelis returned only his passport and a few items of clothing.

Calling from the Istanbul airport on Wednesday night, Neish said a
crowd of 25,000 met the plane carrying the released prisoners and the
bodies of the nine Turks killed by the Israelis He said he is
considering staying in Turkey to attend the funerals of his former
shipmates, and he has not finalized his plans to return to Victoria.

Advocates for an end to the three-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza
are calling on Canada to condemn Israel's kidnapping and murder of
peace activists. They are demanding an end to the occupation of Gaza
and renewed access to food, medical supplies, and the necessities of
life for the people of Gaza. The blockade has starved and impoverished
thousands of Palestinians in the occupied territory.

A demonstration is planned in Victoria this Saturday, June 5 at 11 am.
Details to follow.