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Detainees' buses at Beersheba prison
Photo: Herzel Yosef
One of the detainees
Photo: Herzel Yosef
Israel freeing flotilla detainees
Prime Minister Netanyahu orders release, deportation of activists arrested during raid on Gaza-bound ships in attempt to exercise political damage control. Some 620 people expected to leave Israel within 48 hours

Israel will release all 620 people detained Monday during the raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, Head of the National Information Directorate Nir Hefetz said Tuesday night.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the move following National Security Cabinet consultations, as well as consultations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who said the process will begin overnight and is expected to be completed within 48 hours.

 

The cabinet's decision stemmed form the overwhelming international pressure on Israel following the raid's tragic results – nine fatalities and dozens of casualties.

 

Barak, Yishai and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman supported the move in an attempt to exercise political damage control.

 

The decision, however, was not unanimous. Some of the cabinet ministers said that Israel should not allow the Turkish planes sent to retrieve the injured to transport them, while others said that making the planes return to Ankara empty, would only exacerbate the situation.

 

Still, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that Israel could not afford to simply release those who attacked IDF soldiers, since "it would be sending the wrong message."

 

Aharonovitch suggested remanding 15% of the 620 detainees, and pursue legal action against them.

 

The cabinet eventually agreed to remand only those who footage of the event clearly showed shooting, stabbing or beating IDF soldiers.  

 

Overwhelming international pressure

The majority of those debarked from the flotilla's ships are set to leave the Ela Prison, near Beersheba, overnight, en route to Ben-Gurion International Airport.

 

The majority of detainees are expected to leave Israel within 36 hours - 72 hours after being detained, as required by law.

 

Israel came under unprecedented international pressure to release the foreign nationals detained during the operation.

 

The decision was sanctioned by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

 

The Interior Ministry said that overall, 682 detainees have been processed. Some 124 of the Arab detainees were transferred to Jordan, en route to their countries of origin; 45 others have already left Israel and the others are awaiting processing.

 

The Interior Ministry listed the detainees as being from Australia (3), Azeberbaijan(2), Italy (6),Indonesia (12), Ireland (9), Algeria (28), United States (11), Bulgaria (2), Bosnia (1), Bahrain (4), Belgium (5), Germany (11), South Africa (1), Holland (2), United Kingdom (31) Greece (38), Jordan (30), Kuwait (15), Lebanon (3), Mauritania (3), Malaysia (11), Egypt (3), Macedonia (3), Morocco (7), Norway (3), New Zealand (1), Syria (3), Serbia (1), Oman (1), Pakistan (3), the Czech Republic (4), France (9), Kosovo (1), Canada (1), Sweden (11), and Yemen (4).

 

The remaining 380 detainees are Turks.

 

Meanwhile, the bodies of the nine flotilla fatalities are still held in the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine pending identification.

 

Barring that, the bodies cannot undergo autopsy. The latter cannot be performed without the families' consent and is require to determine the exact cause of death – in this case whether they were killed by IDF fire.

 

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