BBC News – 2009-02-05 09:33:05
Israel Seizes Gaza-bound Aid Ship
(February 5, 2009) — A Lebanese ship carrying aid for Gaza was stopped by the Israeli navy and is being escorted into port, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak says.
Earlier, officials in Lebanon said Israeli gunboats had fired on the ship before soldiers boarded it, although Israel denied this.
Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora has called on the international community to persuade Israel to allow the shipment through.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian militant. The Israeli military said Ala a-Din Abu Rop was a local commander of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group.
There have been sporadic incidents of violence since Hamas and Israel declared separate ceasefires on 18 January, following Israel’s three-week attack on the Gaza Strip.
The aid ship was reported to have set off from the Lebanese port of Tripoli on Tuesday carrying 50 tonnes of medical supplies, food, clothing and toys for Gaza.
Also on board were eight activists and journalists, as well as the former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who had served time in an Israeli jail in the 1970s for his membership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
An organiser of the shipment, Maen Bashur, said the ship was confronted by an Israeli military boat 32km (19 miles) off the Gazan coast late on Wednesday.
“We were informed by the crew that the Israeli forces boarded the ship after firing shots at it,” he told the AFP news agency. “We have lost contact with them.”
He said the ship was asked to turn back as “two Israeli military helicopters flew over the area and fired flares”.
The Israeli military denied troops had fired at the ship. “No gunshots were fired on board during the boarding and capture of the cargo boat,” it said.
Ehud Barak said the Israeli navy had requested the ship head towards Egypt, and only boarded it after it headed back towards Gaza.
“At first the ship understood we were prohibiting it from heading to Gaza and steered towards El-Arish [in Egypt],” he said. “From Egyptian territorial waters it tried to slip into Gaza waters. That is when the Israeli navy boarded it, and it is now taking it to [the Israeli port of] Ashdod.”
The army said the crew of the ship would be questioned by police, while all humanitarian goods found on board would be transferred to Gaza.
Ala a-Din Abu Rop was shot dead by Israeli troops during a raid on his home near Jenin, in the West Bank, on Thursday. An Israeli military spokesman said the 21-year-old was suspected of involvement in attacks on Israelis.
He was fully armed when troops stormed his home, and weapons and ammunition were found during the search, the military said.
Ala a-Din Abu Rop’s father said his son had been sleeping, alongside his brothers, when soldiers broke into the house before dawn.
© BBC MMIX
Israel Shelled Gaza Doctor’s Home
(February 4, 2009) — An Israeli probe into the death of the three daughters of a Gaza doctor in the recent offensive there has concluded they were killed by Israeli fire.
The army said troops had fired shells at suspicious figures in Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish’s house, believing they were observers directing sniper fire.
The Israeli-trained doctor is a fluent Hebrew speaker. His loss became known across Israel when the grieving doctor phoned a TV station to describe what had happened.
The shelling of his house in Gaza occurred on 16 January, as Israel was engaged in operations against Hamas. Three of the physician’s daughters – aged 13 to 20 – and a 17-year-old niece died in the incident.
‘Path of Light’
The Israeli military released the conclusions of its investigation on Wednesday.
It extended its condolences over the shelling, but insisted that troops had operated within reason, given the heavy fighting in the region.
The army also said residents had been urged to leave the area before the attack, and that the doctor had been personally asked by phone to evacuate his family.
At the time of the bombing, Dr Abuelaish, 55, denied that any militants had been hiding in or firing from his house.
He responded to the inquiry by thanking those who carried it out, telling Israeli TV: “We all make mistakes, and we don’t repeat them”.
The father-of-eight added: “I have two options – the path of darkness or the path of light. The path of darkness is like choosing all the complications with diseases and depression, but the path of light is to focus on the future and my children.”
© BBC MMIX
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