Monday, 7 November 2011

Democracy Now exclusive: video report with eyewitnesses to Israeli violence against Gaza boats - Israeli forces intercepted two Gaza-bound boats in international waters on Friday to prevent the boats from breaking the naval blockade of Gaza. The Canadian and Irish boats made up the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla. Israel detained the 27 activists on board, as well as all of the journalists — including Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz. According to flotilla organizers, 21 people remain in Israeli custody, including Hafiz. The flotilla marked the latest failed attempt by international activists to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Democracy Now! speaks to journalist Lina Atallah who was on the Canadian boat named "Tahrir" in the flotilla and was deported to Egypt yesterday. She is the managing editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition, an independent news website. The Israeli navy "cornered our boats from all sides. We were all equally put at gunpoint. Even before they boarded our boat, everyone was put at gunpoint from Israeli ships," Atallah says. "Although we were clearly showing that we were journalists, Jihan Hafiz, for example, who is a Democracy Now! journalist, had her press card out and clear, but she was one of the first people asked to lean on her knees and to raise her hands." Atallah said some passengers were tasered.

For the complete interview, read the transcript, download the podcast, and for additional reports about the flotilla and years of Democracy Now! reports on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, visit

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Canadian Boat to Gaza organisers call for foreign affairs minister to resign

With several Canadians still languishing in an Israeli prison, organizers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza are demanding Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird step down for failing to do his job.

“Our friends have been assaulted, tasered, beaten, kidnapped, robbed, and imprisoned and we have now learned that the Department Foreign Affairs is telling them they have to pay for their deportation flight,” says Wendy Goldsmith, an organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

“If Minister Baird wants to put the interests of a far-right Israeli government before Canadians, he should apply for the job of Israel’s ambassador,” adds Goldsmith. “Otherwise he should demand the immediate release of the Canadian political prisoners in Israel and an immediate end to Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, Baird is soft on crime.”

The Canadian Boat to Gaza organizers say the Minister has failed to seek the immediate release of the Canadians and internationals who have been political prisoners of Israel since Friday. Instead, they say, the Minister has been spreading misinformation in an attempt to justify Israel’s illegal actions.

“Canadians are still imprisoned by Israel because they refuse to sign documents that falsely claim they entered Israel ‘voluntarily’ and ‘illegally’,” says Dylan Penner, an organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

“The fact is they were kidnapped and taken there against their will,” says Penner. “But Minister Baird is trying to create the impression that international waters are Israeli waters. He should really look at a map and stop misleading Canadians about international law.”

Two tweets from the Department of Foreign Affairs last week advised Canadians to “"avoid all travel" to regions of #Israel surrounding the #Gaza Strip”. However, there are no Israeli waters “surrounding” Gaza. There are Gaza’s coastal waters beyond which are international waters. The Israeli Navy captured the boat in international waters (approximately 50 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza), not Israeli waters. This is a violation of international law.

Baird has publicly discouraged Canadians from participating in flotillas aimed at breaking the illegal blockade of Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign views Minister Baird’s statement as an attempt to abdicate the Canadian Government's obligation to ensure the safety of the Canadians and to justify any crimes Israel may commit against peaceful unarmed civilians from Canada and all over the world.

Canadian Boat to Gaza organizers say it is also an attempt to enable the Harper government to maintain its complicity in Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza by providing political cover.

For updates, stay tuned to:

Twitter (@CanadaBoatGaza and #freedomwaves),, , , , and .

For more information:

English inquiries:

Wendy Goldsmith, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 519-619-6766

Dylan Penner, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 613-859-6996

French inquiries:

Denis Kosseim, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 514-923-5594 more

Israel shells eastern Gaza City, three people injured

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shelled the eastern Shujaiyeh district of Gaza City on Monday, with medics reporting three people were injured.

Witnesses told Ma'an that up to 10 shells were fired from the direction of Israeli crossing Nahal Oz to the east of the city throughout the morning.

Medics said three people were transferred to Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

An Israeli army statement said soldiers fired towards "a terrorist squad planting two explosive devices adjacent to the security fence... confirming a hit." more