Israel arrests journalists aboard flotilla

Israeli soldiers board a humanitarian aid ship bound for Gaza. (AP)

November 4, 2011--Israeli forces arrested an unidentified number of journalists today after a group of soldiers boarded two humanitarian aid ships sailing toward Gaza and forced them to redirect to the Israeli port of Ashdod, according to news reports.

The flotilla sailed from Turkey on Wednesday, carrying US$30,000 worth of medical aid to the Gaza Strip, according to news reports. CPJ has confirmed the identities of at least three detained journalists: Lina Attallah, managing editor of the Egyptian independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm's English edition; Jihan Hafiz, correspondent for the U.S.-based syndicated broadcast program Democracy Now!; and Scottish journalist Hassan Ghani, who works for Iran's Press TV. Al-Masry al-Youm said the ship's 27 passengers will be handed over to Israeli police and immigration authorities.

"Israel must immediately disclose the names of all journalists aboard the ship and allow them to work freely," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Israel should also refrain from confiscating any journalistic material as it has done in past raids."

In May 2010, Israel engaged in a raid in which they stormed a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and arrested at least 20 journalists, confiscating their equipment and seizing and editing their footage of the raid, CPJ reported.

Human Rights Group Condemns Israel’s Seizure of Flotilla to Gaza

WASHINGTON - November 4 - Today, amidst reports that the Israeli navy has intercepted the Freedom Waves Flotilla in international waters and boarded two boats attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement, condemning Israel’s actions:
 
“The Center for Constitutional Rights condemns Israel’s use of military force to yet again forcibly stop a nonviolent effort to break the siege on Gaza. Human rights defenders were attempting to reach Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza to deliver medical supplies and letters to the people there. Israel’s blockade is illegal under international law, constituting collective punishment prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, and has caused excessive and disproportionate harm to the civilian population of Gaza, leading to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The use of force against unarmed activists threatens grave injury or worse to peaceful protestors, as we saw in May 2010, when Israeli commandos killed nine unarmed passengers, including one American citizen, on the Freedom Flotilla I. As a nonviolent protest, the flotilla should instead be ensured safe travel, permitted to reach Gaza, and protected from the use of force. The Center for Constitutional Rights condemns the illegal blockade of Gaza and this intervention by the Israeli navy, and calls on the United States and the international community to help end the illegal blockade and the isolation of Palestinians, as well as impunity for Israel’s use of force.”
 
The two boats set sail unannounced from Turkey, carrying twenty-seven human rights activists from several countries including the United States, and announced the attempt only after reaching international waters. This latest attempt comes less than six months after the “Stay Human Flotilla” was detained and sabotaged in Greece by local port authorities in response to mounting pressure from the United States and Israel.

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