Israel Confiscates Leb. Brotherhood Ship, Releases Passengers

Israel Confiscates Leb. Brotherhood Ship, Releases Passengers

Hussein Assi Readers Number : 79

06/02/2009 Once again, the same story repeated itself with Israel… and without any “deterrent”!

It’s the story of the ‘Brotherhood Ship’, a Lebanese aid ship that decided to break the inhumane siege imposed on a ruined strip, which just came out of a fierce war that claimed the lives and injured thousands of innocent people, displaced thousands others.. Enough reasons for right activists’ and journalists to take their decision, express “solidarity” and assume responsibilities: “help” Gazans..

But, there is a problem: breaking the siege is prohibited!
And because breaking the siege is prohibited, the Zionist entity will, once again, give itself the right to open fire on the ship, attack its passengers, detain them for many hours, question them and finally release them… and in the middle of everything, the “free” world has also the complete “right” to remain “silent”!

It’s simply another “victory” achieved by the Lebanese brotherhood ship that dared and headed to “break the siege”, insisted to achieve its goal despite all dangers and challenges..
It’s right that the ship’s passengers weren’t able, at the end, to enter Gaza and deliver the aids… but they experienced one of the most exciting adventures they have never dreamt of: the adventure of imprisonment and liberation!

So, all 18 passengers and crew members, including journalists, were freed after being held for several hours following the seizure of the ship by the Israeli navy.  Passengers told stories about how they were beaten and handcuffed.

Nine Lebanese, including journalists, and a Palestinian resident returned to Lebanon after they were handed over to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon at the Lebanese-Israeli border crossing of Naqoura.  Former Greek Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem Hillarion Capucci, 86, was taken to the Golan Heights where he crossed into Syria. Three others were to be flown out to London early Friday, Israeli officials have said.
“They (Israelis) opened fire on the ship,” Salam Khodr, correspondent for the pan-Arab al-Jazeera television, said of the ordeal.  “Israeli soldiers climbed on board the ship. They kicked us and beat us,” Khodr said from Naqoura. She said the Israeli army confiscated their videotapes.  She said the Israeli navy intercepted and detained the ship and its passengers in Egyptian territorial waters.

Khodr said Ugarith Danadash, a female reporter working for Lebanon’s New TV, and Dr. Hani Suleiman, coordinator of the campaign, were also beaten up.  She said passengers were blindfolded, handcuffed and separated. Then they were interrogated.  Khodr said the passengers’ belongings and equipment were taken away before they were moved to the Israeli port of Ashdod along with the vessel.

In Israel, an army spokesman said no arms were found on board the Lebanese ship. “We are still making an inventory of the supplies,” said military spokesman Peter Lerner. “It doesn’t seem to be a large amount,” he added.  Another military spokesman claimed earlier that by entering Gazan waters, the crew “raised suspicion, as it could threaten security concerns, or furthermore, the boat could be used for smuggling banned equipment (weaponry, etc.) into or out of the Gaza Strip.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon and the Arab League condemned the incident and called the seizure of the vessel “an act of piracy.”

For his part, Yahya Mahmassani, the League’s permanent observer to the United Nations, said he conveyed a strong protest to UN chief Ban Ki-moon. “We demand that the UN uses its good offices and take whatever measures it can to make sure that the ship and its crew are returned safely to Lebanon,” Mahmassani said. “We consider this an act of piracy that should be condemned by the international community. We demand that the ship return to Lebanon immediately,” he added.

Earlier, President Michel Sleiman telephoned Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh to follow-up on the developments regarding the Lebanese vessel. Sleiman denounced reported attacks on those aboard the vessel, and described the interception as evidence of the way in which Israeli chose to deal with situations, “even humanitarian ones.” The president also called for “lifting the blockade on Gaza, in accordance with UNSCR and international human rights laws.”

Saniora also decried Israel’s actions, and said he had called US officials to urge them to pressure Israel into liberating the vessel and delivering its contents to Gaza. He said they would hold Israel responsible for any harm done to the vessel’s passengers.

Following a meeting with the US Ambassador Michelle Sison, Berri also asked Washington to “exert pressure on Israel,” and said he had called UN Special Coordinator Michael Williams to denounce the Israeli piracy.