Israel's attack on the Free Gaza boats should not be left unpunished

Israeli peace activists call the act "a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility"

Left Euro-MP Kyriakos Triantaphyllides of Cyprus and Vice-President of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, strongly condemned in a statement the brutal commando attack launched by Israel in the early hours of Monday against the boats of the Free Gaza movement. The attack resulted in numerous deaths, with exact figures varying between reports, as well as many more serious woundings and dozens of arrests.

Triantaphyllides stressed that the boats were carrying much needed humanitarian aid, basically medical aid and construction material, to the Palestinians in Gaza who have been living under siege for three years.  About seven hundred international activists were on board the boats.

According to the available information the attack was launched while the boats were in international waters. If true this would constitutes yet another violation of International Law by the increasingly irrational Israeli state.

"We denounce the unwarranted use of force against the peaceful  humanitarian mission.  We demand immediate liberation of all those arrested, full and clear information about the wounded and full access to them, and thorough investigation of the incident.

"This act by the Israeli state requires the strongest reaction from the EU and the international community.  We call on the Council and Commission to halt the EU-Israel Partnership Agreement.  The impunity of Israel should stop.

Referring to the European Parliament's own authorities, the Cypriot MEP added a call to the Conference of Presidents to include an urgent debate in Plenary. "We call on the Parliament to unreservedly denounce the attack. We express our deep sorrow and support to the families and beloved of the killed and wounded in the abhorrent Israeli commando attack."

Meanwhile, in Israel itself, sane Israelis were condeming the atrocity. Longstanding peace activist, former Member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and writer Uri Avnery said that "this night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) Command." He called it "a warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists...a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do. Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that - consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill. Noone in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with."

In Cyprus, Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers, told activists from Israeli peace group Gush Shalom that commandos had landed by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.

Gush Shalom issued the following statement in response to the attack:

This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel's already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.

Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza - but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.

It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not "disengage" from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.

The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy. It's time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza. Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue - and rightly so - to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there.