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Middle East

Gaza aid trip was 'political'

media Israeli troops land on the Mavi Marmara in May Reuters

The first passengers of the Gaza bound aid ship controversially stopped by Israeli forces have given evidence in court.  The men told an Israeli commission the journey was politically motivated.

Two Arab-Israeli men who were on the ship Mavi Marmara when it was seized back in May were speaking to the Tirkel commission.  It was set up by the Israeli government and has a mandate to look into the legality of the raid.

Nine Turkish activists were shot dead in the raid on the ship which was trying to break through Israel’s Gaza blockade.

The men, Mohammed Zedan and Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabis said they believed the voyage was at least as much about scoring political points as delivering aid to Palestinians in Gaza Strip.

"I cannot tell you regarding who attacked first, who beat up whom first. I did not see it with my own eyes," Abu Daabis said.

Zedan said he was told by organisers of the trip that the 4,000-tonne ship carried food, medicines and toys for the Gaza population.

He was asked by members of the panel how he thought the massive passenger ferry could dock and offload its cargo at Gaza's tiny fishing harbour.

"Technical matters are not my business and I did not ask," he said. "The route of the ship, heading for Gaza, was a political message. It was a message that the people of Gaza are not alone."

When Abu Daabis was asked if he was aware that it was against the law for Israeli citizens to enter Gaza, he said he thought there was a high probability they would never reach their destination.

The four member panel is urging more passengers to give evidence, although many have refused, or not come forward, whilst the army has barred soldiers who took part in the raid from speaking.

Israel says its soldiers fired in self-defence after they were attacked with clubs and knives, but activists say the Israelis opened fire as soon as they left their helicopters.


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