St. Paul, Minn. (June 1, 2010) – “The United Jewish Fund and Council of St. Paul regrets that civilians have been put in harm’s way, resulting in injury and loss of life,” says Eli Skora, UJFC Executive Director, regarding yesterday’s Gaza flotilla incident.
“While others have been quick to condemn Israel’s actions, the UJFC stands with the people of Israel as the state confronts Hamas and its sympathizers whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel. We ask those who truly wish for a peaceful resolution not to jump to conclusions that Israel was the aggressor and to obtain all of the facts surrounding the incident. We pray for peace and for the day when such actions are no longer necessary.”
Below is a quick summary of actions that took place leading up to the clash:
• On May 31, Israel Defense Forces naval forces intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
• The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.
• During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
• According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.
• The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.
• As a result of this life-threatening activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including, when they determined that their lives were in immediate danger, live fire. According to initial reports, these events resulted in a reported nine deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.
• A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are seriously wounded and the remainder sustained light injuries.
• All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, were evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.
• Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the boarding forces.
• The events are still unfolding. Israeli Naval commander, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom is overseeing the activities.
• The ships have been directed to the Ashdod port, while IDF naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the people on board the ships and their equipment.
• The IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the naval blockade.
“I have never heard of a peace ship that is armed with knives, I have never heard of any nation that would accept a violation of this sort, I have never seen such a despicable attempt to use a humanitarian title for a violent attack,” says Alisa Warshavsky, UJFC’s Israeli Emissary to the St. Paul Community. “Israel will continue to act decisively to protect its sovereignty and its right to self-defense.”
A number of IDF personnel are injured from gunfire, knives and crowbars. All of the injured, Israeli and non-Israeli, are being treated in Israel.
The UJFC/Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul is the central fundraising and planning arm for the St. Paul Jewish community. Its work is felt by millions both locally and around the world, through critical financial assistance to dozens of agencies and institutions.
The UJFC fulfills its mission by working with beneficiary agencies to nurture and educate children, strengthen Jewish identity, bring comfort and care to the elderly and those in need and reinforce a connection to the worldwide Jewish community.
For more information, visit www.jewishstpaul.org.