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First British eye-witness account of Israeli massacre on board the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

4 June 2010

Full video of Sarah Colborne’s press conference this morning.

Precis below is via the Guardian

On Sunday 30th we set off together. We had assembled all the boats in international waters. At 11pm that night, Israeli naval boats were detected on the radar and sighted and a decision was made to move further back into international waters, further from Israel.

We managed to get some broadcasts out that we were on a humanitarian mission, that the United Nations had called for ships to be sent with humanitarian aid to break the blockade on Gaza, that we were simply undertaking that goal. An emergency medical room was assembled and we were all told to put lifejackets on to prepare for any attack.

At 2am I went to sleep. At around 4.10am I woke up, went up to the deck where I could see outside and I saw boats, small dinghies but bristling with guns and Israeli military, speeding towards the ship. Helicopters then appeared. Gas and sound bombs were used and the reports from Sydney Morning Herald [a reporter from the newspaper was on Challenger, another boat in the flotilla] were that at 4.20am they reported gunshots, and the Challenger transmitted this information.

We then had the first passenger fatally injured. He was brought to the back of the open deck below. He was shot in the head. I saw him. He was obviously in a very bad way and he subsequently died. There were bullets flying all over the place when I was on the top deck and I took the decision to go downstairs.

It felt a bit surreal. I couldn’t quite believe they were doing what they were doing. There was live ammunition flying around and I could hear the sounds of the bullets flying and the whirr of the helicopter blades as people were dropped down onto the roof. What I saw was guns being used by the Israelis on unarmed civilians.

We asked for the Israelis to stop the attacks. We were asking in English: “We are not resisting, please help the injured.” Instead of helping the injured, the saloon remained surrounded by soldiers targeting individuals with laser sights. I could see the red of the laser sights sweeping over people’s heads.

The captain announced live ammunition was being used, to stop resisting and to go downstairs. At 5.15am we started broadcasting over the Tannoy for help to evacuate the critically injured and for emergency medical assistance.

We made two attempts to get the message across in the written form as well as the many announcements over the Tannoy. We wrote a sign in Hebrew saying: “SOS! Need medical assistance. People are dying. Urgent.”

It wasn’t until 7am that the Israelis started allowing the first critically injured people off and they were delivered into Israeli hands. An attempt was made to send a medic with each of the critically injured people. Instead, the medics were cuffed and put on the deck.

I saw four dead bodies in the saloon laid out on the floor. All passengers were removed on to the deck. As we were moved out we were all cuffed with cable ties. All our phones and cameras were removed. We were made to sit or kneel in lines on the deck. The sun was quite strong and I was aware that people were starting to get dehydrated.

We were kidnapped, we were deprived of our liberty and our belongings. People were illegally held against their will, taken to Israel from international waters. In terms of treatment, in terms of our basic rights they were completely and totally violated.

We are hoping that the deaths, the horrific deaths, of the people will not be in vain. We are hoping that this will act as a wake-up call internationally, including our own government, that the siege on Gaza must end. It is illegal, inhumane and immoral. Israel has been used to acting with impunity. That situation has changed now.

We can’t sit by and watch Israel violate international law every day. We want the British government to take action, ensure there are no future attacks on humanitarian aid convoys, to ensure there is a search carried out for those that remain missing, to ensure that those people who have been detained illegally will be released and most importantly to end the siege of Gaza.

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