Casualties reported during IDF raid on Gaza sail
Israeli Navy attacks six vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid to blockaded Strips. According to unofficial reports, at least 10 people killed, dozens injured. Six IDF soldiers hurt, one sustaining severe wounds. Some of injured evacuated on boats, helicopters; Israeli hospitals prepared
At least 10 people were killed and 50 were injured early Monday as the Israeli Navy took over the ships taking part in the aid sail to Gaza, Arab and Turkish media reported.
The IDF reported that six soldiers were injured during the takeover from live ammunition and knife stabbing. Two of the troops was said to be in serious condition and the others in light to moderate condition. The injured were evacuated to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer by helicopter.
According to an IDF source, "The sail's participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces' arrival."
The NTV network has been broadcasting images of injured passengers on board one of the ships since the morning hours. Some were evacuated on boats and helicopters.
The al-Jazeera network reported that hundreds of soldiers took over the vessels taking part in the sail simultaneously.
According to a reporter on one of the ships, the Israel Defense Forces raided all vessels from the sea and air at the same time and informed all of the passengers that they were under arrest.
The Israeli vessels, the report said, attacked the flotilla in international waters with aerial reinforcement, using gas. A Qatari television channel broadcast live the dramatic images from the ships, with Hamas spokespeople giving interviews and vowing to punish Israel for "the new crime".
One of injured evacuated to Haifa hospital (Photo: Shai Vaknin)
The images showed Commando soldiers with their faces covered. A fighter in uniform, wearing a gas mask, tried to block the camera with his hand, while more and more troops raided the ship after sliding down from a helicopter using a rope.
The NTV network showed Commando fighters hanging down from ropes onto the ships' decks. One of the images showed a military doctor treating one of the injured.
At around 4 am, the live broadcast from one of the six ships was disconnected. The broadcast was resumed an hour later and the ship began calling out for help and announced to the Navy that there were injured people aboard.
Passengers: Don't attack us
One of the passengers on the ship called out to the Navy vessels, "Don't attack us. We are unarmed civilians. There are injured people onboard."
The calls were first made in English, and were later joined by Knesset Member Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who called out to the ships in Hebrew.
Senior Hamas member Ismail Raduan responded to the IDF takeover on the vessels sailing to Gaza, saying that "this is state-sponsored organized terror. We are calling on the international community to do something.
"These are crimes against humanity and against our Palestinian people. We call on all members the Arab and Muslim people to launch protests of rage of solidarity."
Three Israeli naval craft left a Haifa naval base just after 9 pm on Sunday and approached the "Freedom Flotilla" after dark, according to the Twitter page of Free Gaza, one organization participating in the flotilla.
Two hours later, Israel Radio broadcast a recording of one of the missile boats warning the flotilla, which is carrying humanitarian aid and pro-Palestinian activists, not to approach Gaza.
"If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade," the radio message continued.
The six-ship convoy carrying aid for Palestinians set sail for Gaza Sunday afternoon in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade of the impoverished territory and warnings that it would be intercepted. The ships, led by a Turkish vessel with 600 people on board, departed from international waters off Cyprus.
Ali Waked, Shmulik Grossman and Ahiya Raved contributed to this report