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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

GAZA FLOTILLA ACTIVISTS FREED - 2 JUNE 10

Gaza flotilla: Israel starts to free foreign activists
Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 11:46 UK
E-mail this to a friend Printable version More than 100 activists were taken by bus to the border with Jordan Israel has deported more than 120 foreign activists detained after a deadly raid on an aid flotilla trying to break its blockade of Gaza.

The activists were taken to Jordan. Another 300 people, most of them Turkish, are due to be deported soon.

Nine activists, four of them Turkish, died when Israeli commandos boarded the six-ship convoy early on Monday.

The Turkish cabinet is holding a special meeting to discuss its relations with Israel.

Turkey, formerly a close ally of Israel, has been one of the states most vocal in its condemnation of the raid.

AT THE SCENE
Continue reading the main story
Dale Gavlak
BBC News, Allenby Bridge, Jordan
The activists came off the buses looking bedraggled and weary after a two-day detention in Israel and a 10-hour wait to cross into Jordan.

They were eager to share their stories. Differing accounts of the attack on the flotilla continue.

A Malaysian doctor who identified himself as Mohammed claimed 16 people were killed and he said he witnessed four deaths. He alleged the Israelis first used rubber bullets, then live ammunition.

The activists have now gone on to Amman, where they will travel to their respective countries.

Q&A: Israeli raid on aid flotilla

Guide: Gaza under blockade

Gaza flotilla raid sparks press fury

In pictures: Aid flotilla raid protests
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Israel of a "bloody massacre" over the deaths, which are all thought to have taken place on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara.

Turkish diplomats said four of the dead were Turkish, although this has not been confirmed. The identities of the other dead activists are not known.

Ankara recalled its ambassador on Monday, while Israeli media reports say the families of Israeli diplomats in Turkey have been ordered to leave the country.

The incident has sparked widespread concern and increased calls on Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the situation in Gaza "unsustainable".

She said on Tuesday that Washington would support an Israeli investigation of the raid but it must be "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent", as called for by the UN Security Council.

Israel has maintained control of Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, as well as most of its land borders, since withdrawing troops and settlers from the territory in 2005.

Hillary Clinton: "The situation is Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable"
It says the blockade is necessary to avoid the risk of weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Israel and Egypt sealed off the territory after militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007.

According to the UN, Gaza receives about one-quarter of the supplies that it received in the years before the blockade was tightened in 2007.

Chants of celebration

About 120 pro-Palestinian activists arrived in Jordan via the Allenby crossing on Wednesday morning.

They came from Arab and Muslim nations, most of them without diplomatic ties with Israel, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Pakistan.

They were greeted by a crowd of sympathisers, who cheered and chanted in celebration after a 10-hour wait on the Jordanian side of the border, says the BBC's Dale Gavlak at the border.

Flotilla facts
Continue reading the main story 682 activists to be deported, Israel says
380 of those held are Turkish. Others from more than 30 others countries
45 left Israel on Tuesday, 124 deported on Wednesday
Nine dead, four of which are thought to be Turkish
Unknown number of activists injured
Seven Israeli soldiers injured
More than 300 activists have been taken to Ben Gurion airport to be flown out of Israel, the Israeli Interior Ministry said.

Many others - including 30 Britons and 10 more with dual British nationality - are still in Israeli jails, but Israel says it is aiming to complete deportations by Thursday.

Israel had seized 682 people with the ships. Around 50 activists were deported early on Tuesday.

Israel said its soldiers were attacked with "knives, clubs and other weapons" when they landed on the Mavi Marmara and had opened fire in self-defence.

Eyewitness accounts from some of those activists released earlier cast doubt on Israel's version of events.

German politician Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship.

HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED

The flotilla of six ships, including the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, was on its way from Cyprus to Gaza carrying supplies including cement, paper and water purification tablets.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED

As the flotilla, still in international waters, neared Gaza, Israeli commandos intercepted the boats from air and sea. This image shows a soldier rappelling from a helicopter onto the upper deck of the ferry.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED

The Israelis say their soldiers were set upon and beaten with bats, chairs and metal poles as soon as they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Activists say the soldiers attacked them first.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED

As the incident escalated, the Israelis used live weapons on the activists, although the exact circumstances are unclear. This still from Turkish TV footage shows first aid being given to an injured activist.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED

At the end of the incident at least nine activists were dead. Israel escorted the flotilla to the port of Ashdod and detained the protesters. An online maritime tracking map shows the route taken by the boats.
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Israeli Arab MP Haneen Zuabi told a press conference that troops began firing while still in the helicopters hovering over the ships.

The six ships, carrying more than 100 tonnes of aid, had sailed from Cyprus in a bid to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Israel had warned organisers that the flotilla would not be allowed to land in Gaza, but had said the ships could land in the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Following the Israeli raid, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to be opened.

The Egyptian state news agency said the latest opening was to allow humanitarian aid through. It is not clear how long it will be kept open.

The Rafah crossing has been closed since 2007, although special medical cases are occasionally allowed through.

Do you know anyone on board the flotilla? Are you affected by the issues raised in this story?

Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or 0044 7725 100 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.