04 June 2010
The real story from Mavi Marmara: They were shooting to killThe real story from Mavi Marmara: They were shooting to kill
Thursday 03 June 2010
by Paddy McGuffin
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Witness Kevin Ovenden
Witness Kevin Ovenden
The Israeli massacre of unarmed campaigners aboard a ship carrying aid to Gaza is the "Sharpeville and Soweto of the Movement for Palestinian Solidarity," one of those who survived the bloodthirsty assault has said.
Speaking to the Star from Istanbul shortly after his release from an Israeli jail British campaigner Kevin Ovenden, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara - the boat that bore the brunt of a terrifying raid by gun-toting Israeli commandos - described the attack as a "murderous assault" and "an act of political terrorism."
Israeli security forces stormed the Mavi Marmara in international waters on Sunday night as it ferried 500 unarmed protesters towards Gaza.
The assault killed nine and injured dozens more, sparking worldwide condemnation.
Israel attempted to claim that its shock troops acted in self-defence after coming under attack, blaming the protesters for provoking the situation and being "terrorist supporters."
But Mr Ovenden told the Morning Star: "This was a peaceful humanitarian mission in international waters. The youngest person on board was not yet one, the oldest was 88 years old.
"We had no weapons on board. The Israelis are displaying knives taken from the kitchen. People did defend themselves with whatever was at hand.
"The attack started with percussion grenades and we feared they would use tear gas. The Israeli commandos attacked from all sides and began shooting almost immediately, initially with so-called rubber bullets but certainly within two or three minutes we heard the unmistakable sound of live rounds.
"A colleague from Viva Palestina, Nicci Enchmarch, was next to a Turkish man who was holding a camera. He was shot through the middle of the forehead. The exit wound blew away the back of his skull and she cradled him in her arms as he died."
At least four of those killed were shot through the head, he said.
Mr Ovenden praised the Turkish crew of the vessel as "truly heroic in their attempts to prevent further loss of life," saying they had taken two injured Israeli soldiers inside the ship to prevent them being hurt further in the panic and chaos.
Appeals to the Israeli forces telling them their soldiers were safe and that there were wounded people who needed assistance were ignored, he said.
"Where people had been sleeping was turned into a makeshift triage area. This turned into a makeshift mortuary. Despite repeated requests the Israeli forces refused to evacuate any of the injured for more than an hour.
"I saw severely injured people dragged like sacks of potatoes up the stairwells, their bodies banging against the steel."
Mr Ovenden was transported to BeerSheeva jail where he was held until his eventual release and extradition.
The brutality and degradation continued throughout their ordeal only improving slightly when the British consular official arrived at the prison.
Summing up the horrific events aboard the Mavi Marmara, he said: "This is the Sharpeville and Soweto of the movement for Palestinian solidarity and it must mark a turning point in world opinion and in the actions of governments around the world to end this immoral and illegal siege and the treatment the Israelis mete out to Palestinians.
"We experienced it for 48 hours but they have endured this for 62 years."
Despite the horrific ordeal Mr Ovenden said he would be prepared to make the trip again after the families of some of those murdered asked that their loss not be in vain.