Revolution Online, October 10, 2010
From A World to Win News Service
UN Report: What Happened on the Mavi Marmara
October 4, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Following are excerpts from the report by a mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council on the facts surrounding Israel's interception of a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza May 31, 2010. (Report A/HRC/15/21) We have retained the paragraph numbering of the original document, and reprinted the entire paragraphs, although we have made a selection from this 56-page document to focus on the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship, on which nine people were killed. The subheads are from the original report. For more on this report and the reaction to it, see accompanying article, "U.S. to Israel after the Gaza ship massacre: Keep up the killing."
Initial attempt to board the Mavi Marmara from the sea
112. Israeli zodiac boats made a first attempt to board the Mavi Marmara from the sea shortly before 0430 hours. Several zodiac boats approached the ship at the stern from both the port and starboard sides. The approach was accompanied by the firing of non-lethal weaponry onto the ship, including smoke and stun grenades, tear gas and paintballs. Plastic bullets may also have been used at this stage: however, despite some claims that live ammunition was also fired from the zodiac boats, the Mission is not satisfied that this was the case. The smoke and tear gas were not effective due to the strong sea breeze and later due to the downdraft from helicopters.
113. The Israeli forces attempted to board the ship through attaching ladders to the hull. Passengers engaged in efforts to repel the attempted boarding using the ship's water hoses and the throwing of various items at the boats including chairs, sticks, a box of plates and other objects that were readily to hand. This initial attempt to board the ship proved unsuccessful. It is the view of the Mission that the Israeli forces should have re-evaluated their plans when it became obvious that putting their soldiers on board the ship may lead to civilian casualties.
Landing of soldiers from helicopters onto the Mavi Marmara
114. Just minutes after soldiers from the zodiac boats had made initial unsuccessful attempts to board, the first helicopter approached the ship at approximately 0430 hours, hovering above the top deck. At this point between 10 and 20 passengers were located in the central area of the top deck, although this number increased as other passengers learned of events on the top deck. The Israeli forces used smoke and stun grenades in an attempt to clear an area for the landing of soldiers. The first rope that was let down from the helicopter was taken by passengers and tied it to a part of the top deck and thereby rendered ineffective for the purpose of soldiers' descent. A second rope was then let down from the helicopter and the first group of soldiers descended. The Mission does not find it plausible that soldiers were holding their weapons and firing as they descended on the rope. However, it has concluded that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.
115. With the available evidence it is difficult to delineate the exact course of events on the top deck between the time of the first soldier descending and the Israeli forces securing control of the deck. A fight ensued between passengers and the first soldiers to descend onto the top deck that resulted in at least two soldiers being pushed down onto the bridge deck below, where they were involved in struggles with groups of passengers who attempted to take their weapons. The equipment jacket of at least one soldier was removed as he was pushed over the side of the deck. A number of weapons were taken from the soldiers by passengers and thrown into the sea: one weapon, a 9mm pistol was unloaded by a passenger, a former U.S. Marine, in front of witnesses and then hidden in another part of the ship in an attempt to retain evidence.
116. A number of the passengers on the top deck fought with the soldiers using their fists, sticks, metal rods and knives. At least one of the soldiers was stabbed with a knife or other sharp object. Witnesses informed the Mission that their objective was to subdue and disarm the soldiers so that they could not harm anyone. The Mission is satisfied on the evidence that at least two passengers on the bridge deck also used handheld catapults to propel small projectiles at the helicopters. The Mission has found no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship. Despite requests, the Mission has not received any medical records or other substantiated information from the Israeli authorities regarding any firearm injuries sustained by soldiers participating in the raid. Doctors examined the three soldiers taken below decks and no firearm injuries were noted. Further, the Mission finds that the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.
Deaths of nine passengers and wounding of at least 50 other passengers
117. During the operation to secure control of the top deck, the Israeli forces landed soldiers from three helicopters over a fifteen-minute period. The Israeli forces used paintballs, plastic bullets and live ammunition, fired by soldiers from the helicopter above and soldiers who had landed on the top deck. The use of live ammunition during this period resulted in fatal injuries to four passengers, and injuries to at least nineteen others, fourteen with gunshot wounds. Escape points to the bridge deck from the top deck were narrow and restricted and as such it was very difficult for passengers in this area to avoid being hit by live rounds. At least one of those killed was using a video camera and not involved in any of the fighting with the soldiers. The majority of gunshot wounds received by passengers were to their upper torsos in the head, thorax, abdomen and back. Given the relatively small number of passengers on the top deck during the incident, the Mission is driven to the conclusion that the vast majority were in receipt of gunshot wounds.
118. Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets. Forensic analysis demonstrates that two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Doğan received a bullet in the face and İbrahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull entered his brain. Furthermore, some of the wounded were subjected to further violence including being hit with the butt of a weapon, being kicked in the head, chest and back and being verbally abused. A number of the wounded passengers were handcuffed and then left unattended for some time before being dragged to the front of the deck by their arms or legs.
119. Once the Israeli forces had secured control of the top deck they undertook measures to move down to the bridge deck below in order to take over the ship's bridge and thus take control of the ship. In relation to this operation, a series of shooting incidents occurred centred on the portside doorway which gives access to the main stairwell on the bridge deck. This door is near to the hatch and ladder, which allows access from the top deck to the bridge deck.
120. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition both from the top deck at passengers on the bridge deck below and after they had moved down to the bridge deck. At least four passengers were killed, and at least nine injured (five with firearms injuries) during this phase. None of the four passengers who were killed, including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces. There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting other to do so. Wounded passengers were brought into the ship where they could be given some form of medical treatment by doctors and others on board.
122. A group of up to twenty passengers, some holding sticks and rods and wearing gas masks, were located on or around the stairwell inside the ship. One passenger standing just inside the door was shot through the broken porthole in the door by a soldier standing a few metres away on the bridge deck outside.
123. During the shootings on the bridge deck and as it became apparent that a large number of passengers had become injured, Bulent Yildirim, the President of IHH [the Turkish humanitarian organisation that owned this ship] and one of the principal organisers of the flotilla, removed his white shirt which was then used as a white flag to indicate a surrender. This does not appear to have had any effect and live firing continued on the ship.
124. Israeli forces moved down to the bridge deck and moved rapidly to take over the bridge room towards the front of the ship. The doorway and windows of the bridge room came under fire and the ship's captain ordered the ship's engines to be cut. Israeli soldiers entered the bridge room through the door and broken window. The crew were made to lie on the ground at gunpoint. The captain remained standing but was held at gunpoint.
Shootings at the bow deck, the release of the Israeli soldiers and end of the operation
125. During the initial fighting on the top deck three Israeli soldiers were taken under control and brought inside the ship. While some passengers wished to harm the soldiers, other passengers ensured that they were protected and able to receive rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board. Two of the soldiers had received wounds to the abdomen. One of the soldiers had a superficial wound to the abdomen, caused by a sharp object, which penetrated to the subcutaneous tissue. None of the three soldiers had received gunshot injuries, according to doctors who examined them. All three soldiers were in a state of shock and were suffering from cuts, bruises and blunt force trauma.
126. As the seriousness of incidents on the outer decks became apparent, there was growing concern among some of the flotilla organisers that holding the captured Israeli soldiers may have serious implications for the security of all passengers on board. It was decided that the soldiers should be released and they were taken to the bow of the lower deck. Once on the bow deck two of the soldiers jumped into the sea and were picked up by Israeli boats. The third soldier did not jump and was rapidly joined by Israeli soldiers who came down from the top deck.
127. At least four passengers were injured on the bow of the ship, both before and around the time that the Israeli soldiers were released. At least two passengers received wounds from live ammunition, while others received injuries from soft baton charges, including one doctor who was tending to injured passengers.
128. The Israeli forces stated that the active phase of the Israeli forces operation concluded at 0517 hours, once the ship was under their control and the three soldiers were released. During the 45-50 minute operation, nine passengers were killed, more than 24 passengers had received serious injuries caused by live ammunition and a large number of passengers had received serious injuries caused by plastic rounds, soft baton charges (beanbags) and other means.
Deaths occurring on the Top Deck (roof)
Furkan Doğan, a 19-year-old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.
İbrahim Bilgen, a 60-year-old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey, was on the top deck and was one of the first passengers to be shot. He received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. He had a further two bullet wounds to the right side of the back and right buttock, both back to front. These wounds would not have caused instant death, but he would have bled to death within a short time without medical attention. Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire beanbag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. He had a further bruise on the right flank consistent with another beanbag wound. The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.
Fahri Yaldiz, a 42-year-old Turkish citizen from Adiyaman, received five bullet wounds, one to the chest, one to the left leg and three to the right leg. The chest wound was caused by a bullet that entered near the left nipple and hit the heart and lungs before exiting from the shoulder. This injury would have caused rapid death.
According to the pathology report, Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38-year-old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds (one in the chest, one in the abdomen, one in the right arm, one in the right thigh and two in the left hand). One bullet lodged in the chest area. None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds.
Deaths occurring on the Bridge Deck, portside
Cevdet Kiliçlar, a 38-year-old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. At the moment he was shot he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes. The bullet followed a horizontal trajectory which crossed the middle of the brain from front to back. He would have died instantly.
41-year-old Cengiz Akyuz from Hatay and 46-year-old Cengiz Songur from Izmir, both Turkish citizens, were injured on the bridge deck in close succession by live fire from above. They had been sheltering and were shot as they attempted to move inside the door leading to the stairwell. Cengiz Akyuz received a shot to the head and it is probable that he died instantly.
The pathology report shows four wounds: to the neck, face, chest and thigh. Cengiz Songur received a single bullet to the upper central thorax below the neck, shot from a high angle, which lodged in the right thoracic cavity injuring the heart and aorta. Unsuccessful efforts were made by doctors inside the ship to resuscitate him through heart massage.
Çetin Topçuoğlu, a 54-year-old Turkish citizen from Adana had been involved in helping to bring injured passengers inside the ship to be treated. He was also shot close to the door on the bridge deck. He did not die instantly and his wife, who was also on board the ship, was with him when he died. He was shot by three bullets. One bullet entered from the top of the soft tissues of the right side of the back of the head, exited from the neck and then re-entered into the thorax. Another bullet entered the left buttock and lodged in the right pelvis. The third entered the right groin and exited from the lower back. There are indications that the victim may have been in a crouching or bending position when this wound was sustained.
Ill-treatment of passengers at airport and repatriation
202. Perhaps the most shocking testimony, after that relating to the violence on the Mavi Marmara, provided to the Mission was the consistent accounts of a number of incidents of extreme and unprovoked violence perpetrated by uniformed Israeli personnel upon certain passengers during the processing procedures inside the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport on the day of deportation. These accounts were so consistent and vivid as to be beyond question. An intimidating number of armed soldiers and police were present inside the terminal building. Some passengers said that these officers were "spoiling for a fight." All passengers had been subjected to multiple searches and were completely under the control of the Israelis by this stage. Most passengers were continuing to refuse to sign deportation documents and some were determined to make a point about the legality of the process by insisting on a court hearing to confirm the deportation. None of the violence described seems to have been justified.
203. Some passengers in the passport checking area saw an older passenger being roughly treated after receiving what appeared to be a beating. When other passengers, including Irish and Turkish, protested at this treatment, they were charged by soldiers using batons. In the foray, around 30 passengers were beaten to the ground, kicked and punched in a sustained attack by soldiers. One Irish passenger was seen being particularly badly beaten around the head and held in a choke position to the point of near suffocation. He identified his attackers as police officers. He was taken to a holding cell.
204. One Turkish passenger involved in the fight said that he was subsequently taken by soldiers, handcuffed with metal cuffs, picked up by the cuffs, taken to a small room and beaten and kicked by five more soldiers while others shielded the scene from outside. The police intervened to stop the violence in this case.
205. A number of women were pushed around by soldiers, one of whom was beaten with fists. They were also subjected to sexual taunts.
206. In a separate incident, a passenger was physically attacked by around 17 officers when he refused to sign deportation papers, kicked in the head and threatened at gunpoint. A number of passengers had resolved to resist deportation in order to have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence in an Israeli court. This was taken as a provocation by the Israelis.
Possessions of passengers confiscated by the Israeli authorities
240. Amongst the items confiscated and not returned by the Israeli authorities is a large amount of video and photographic footage that was recorded on electronic and other media by passengers, including many professional journalists, on board the vessels of the flotilla. This includes a large number of photographic and video material of the Israeli assault and interception on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels. The Israeli authorities have subsequently released a very limited amount of this for public access, in an edited form, but the vast majority has remained in the private control of the Israeli authorities.
241. The Mission is satisfied that this represents a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other information related to the events of 31 May on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels of the flotilla.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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