Wed, July 28, 2010 | Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Flotillas to the Gaza Strip
Investigation Committees Appointed to Investigate the Mavi Marmara Flotilla
The international community continues probing the Mavi Marmara flotilla and its outcome, and the UN has appointed two committees to investigate the events:
* The Secretary General’s committee will examine the findings of the Israeli and Turkish investigations. It will be composed of an Israeli representative, a Turkish representative and a representative from the international community, possibly Geoffrey Palmer, former New Zealand prime minister (Israel’s morning daily Yediot Aharonot, July 25, 2010).
* The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding committee will “investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.” The committee members will be Judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips from Trinidad, who served as a judge of the International Criminal Court; Sir Desmond de Silva from the United Kingdom, who was chief prosecutor of the UN-backed court in Sierra Leon; and Mary Shanthi Dairiam from Malaysia, a member of the UN committee on the elimination of discriminations against women. Note: The UN Human Rights Council was the body which issued the Goldstone Report after Operation Cast Lead in 2009.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas welcomed the committee’s appointment. Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that Fatah demanded that “the Israeli war criminals [sic] be tried in a court of law for their crimes against Palestinians, Arabs, Turks and others who supported the Palestinians” (Wafa News Agency, July 23, 2010). Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, speaking at the Islamic University in Gaza City, praised the committee’s appointment but said that Hamas would prefer an investigation committee which would deter Israel from attacking other aid ships, try the “leaders of the occupation” in an international court and help lift the siege of the Gaza Strip (Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, July 25, 2010).
Naval and Overland Aid Convoys to the Gaza Strip – Update
On July 25 Yasser Qashlaq, the organizer of the Lebanese flotilla to the Gaza Strip, again claimed that the legal procedures were in their final stages and that the ships would set sail in the coming days (DayPress, July 22, 2010); they are, however, still in port. A source involved in the sailing of the ship Nagi al-Ali claimed that while preparations were advancing, there were still technical delays, and it might be a matter of weeks before the ships sailed (Agence France-Presse, July 24, 2010).
In response to the issue of the Lebanese ships, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that if the ships did not accompany the Israeli Navy to the port of Ashdod, Israel would have no choice but to halt them on the high seas (Ynet, July 23, 2010). The organizers of the flotilla responded as follows:
* Yasser Qashlaq said that Israel’s threats to attack the two ships did not frighten them and that they would show “the confusion and fear of the enemy of the ships [which came] to break the siege.” He added that if Israel tried to attack the ships, “a suit will be brought against Ehud Barak in Poland” (DayPress, July 25, 2010).
* Rima Farah, spokeswoman for the ship Maryam, which will carry only women and which is currently anchored in the port of Tripoli, claimed that the sailing date would be determined at the appropriate time and that “Israeli threats will not frighten us” (Al-Bayan Center website, July 25, 2010).
Tony Blair, the International Quartet’s emissary to the Middle East, urged the organizers of the Lebanese aid ships to reconsider their plans to sail to the Gaza Strip. He repeated the statement of the UN Undersecretary General that such convoys ran the risk of leading to escalation (Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2010)
Other initiatives continue to organize naval and overland convoys to the Gaza Strip:
* Canada – A Canadian organization calling itself the Gaza Freedom March has begun collecting contributions to send a Canadian ship to the Gaza Strip, part of Freedom Flotilla 2. One of the organizers said that they did not intend to confront Israel and that they did not support Hamas, but rather the residents of the Gaza Strip (The National Post, July 15, 2010).
* Venezuela – According to unverified information, a ship sent by Venezuelan President Chavez carrying 6,000 tons of food is expected to reach the port of El Arish in the middle of August 2010 (Al-Masrawy, July 20, 2010).
* The Arab Parliament – Hada Fathi, Arab Parliament spokesman, said that the Parliament intended to send an overland convoy to the Gaza Strip during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan; the convoy would be entitled Ramadan al-Karim. He said the Parliament had appointed a committee to organize both naval and overland aid convoys to the Gaza Strip (Safa News Agency, July 20, 2010).
* Tunisia – Salman al-Harfi, Palestinian Authority representative in Tunisia, said that in the coming days Tunisia would send an overland aid convoy to the Gaza Strip. It could bring food for the Ramadan fast (Wafa News Agency, July 24, 2010).
* Jordan – The organizers of the Jordanian aid convoy Ansar 1, whose entrance to the Gaza Strip was prevented last week by the Egyptian authorities, said that they intended to join the international convoy expected to leave for the Gaza Strip in September (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, July 22, 2010).
In view of the many initiatives to organize naval and overland aid convoys to the Gaza Strip, the UN Undersecretary General said that did they not aid the Gaza Strip or solve its economic problems, and moreover presented the danger of a useless escalation. He said that there were formal land crossings to the Gaza Strip and that it was preferable that the aid pass through them (UN website, July 21, 2010). Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri criticized the undersecretary’s remarks and claimed that it was “a scandal which reflected a UN-Israeli plot.” He also claimed that such remarks provided Israel with cover to continue carrying out “acts of piracy…against pro-Palestinian activists at sea” (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, July 24, 2010).
3 For further information see the July 27, 2010 post, Yasser Qashlaq, the Lebanese Flotilla, Syria and Hezbollah.