124 Gaza aid flotilla activists deported from Israel arrive in JordanBy Dale Gavlak, AP
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
124 Gaza aid flotilla activists arrive in Jordan
ALLENBY BRIDGE, Jordan — Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists detained in the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla said upon arriving in Jordan Wednesday that they were roughed up and humiliated before Israel deported them.
The 124 activists from 12 Muslim nations — most of them without diplomatic ties with Israel — crossed the Allenby Bridge aboard five Jordanian buses. The bridge across the Jordan River, which is under Israeli control, links Jordan with the West Bank.
“The Israelis roughed up and humiliated all of us — women, men and children,” said Kuwaiti lawmaker Walid al-Tabtabai, who was on board one of the ships with other activists from Muslim countries.
“They were brutal and arrogant, but our message reached every corner of the world that the blockade on Gaza is unfair and should be lifted immediately,” he added.
The bearded lawmaker said there “was not a single weapon with the passengers aboard all the ships.”
Algerian Izzeddine Zahrour said Israeli authorities “deprived us of food, water and sleep and we weren’t allowed to use the toilet.”
“It was an ugly kidnapping and subsequently bad treatment in Israeli jail,” he said. “They handcuffed us, pushed us around and humiliated us.”
Mauritanian Mohammed Gholam said Israel “wanted us to sign documents saying that we entered Israel illegally.”
“We refused to sign anything and told our captors that we didn’t wish to go to Israel, but to Gaza and that their commandos kidnapped us from international waters,” he added.
An Algerian activist, who only gave her first name as Sabrina, accused Israeli commandos of taking a 1-year-old child “hostage.”
“They point a gun to his head in front of his Turkish parents to force the captain of our ship to stop sailing,” she said.
Jordanian government spokesman Nabil Al-Sharif said there were 30 Jordanians in the group. Jordan is one of two Arab nations with a signed peace treaty with Israel.
The bridge’s Jordanian chief, Brig. Mahmoud Abu Jumaa, said Jordan will help repatriate the activists — who also include journalists — to their respective countries in coordination with their governments.
Kuwaiti ambassador Sheik Faisal Al Sabah said there were 16 Kuwaitis aboard the buses. “They will be flown home aboard a Kuwaiti government-chartered plane later Wednesday,” Al Sabah said.
He said the other activists came from Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.
Dozens of other activists remain in Israeli detention, but most are expected to be deported in the coming days.
Worldwide condemnation has poured on Israel since its naval commandos halted the aid flotilla in international waters overnight Monday, setting off a melee that left nine activists dead and dozens wounded. Turkey, an unofficial backer of the flotilla, has led the criticism, accusing Israel of committing a “massacre,” and the U.N. Security Council demanded an impartial investigation.
Associated Press Writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
Tags: Allenby Bridge, Flotilla, Gaza Strip, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestinian Territories