World News

Israelis "humiliated" ship activists: eyewitness

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Activists aboard a Turkish aid ship used sticks to defend themselves against a raid by Israeli commandos but were eventually forced to surrender and were tied up, one of the activists said on Wednesday.

A Pro-Palestinian activist, arrested aboard a Gaza-bound ship, places his hands against the window of a bus as it leaves Ella prison in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Alberto Denkberg

“They humiliated us,” said Ahmed Brahimi, an Algerian who said he was on board the Mavi Marmara ship where most of the violence took place during the raid on Monday.

Nine activists were killed in the raid, prompting an international outcry and increasing pressure on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza.

Israel said marines who rappelled onto the Mavi Marmara fired in self-defence after activists clubbed and stabbed them and used two pistols snatched from the boarding party to shoot and wound several of them.

“We were not armed. We did not go there to fight,” Brahimi, who said he was the coordinator of the Algerian contingent on board the convoy’s ships, told Reuters by telephone from Jordan soon after he was deported from Israel.

“We were doing our morning prayer when the Israelis first tried to come on board the Marmara ship,” he said.

“We used sticks and all what we could find to defend ourselves to stop the assault. During the second assault, they succeeded in kidnapping the young son of the captain, and then we found ourselves obliged to give up.”

“(They) seized our cell phones, did not allow us to use the lavatory..., our hands were tied up, and some of us were placed on our stomachs.”

He said he saw Israeli commandos firing rubber bullets but did not witness the incident when they used live rounds. Brahimi said that he and fellow activists were later taken off the ship at the port of Ashdod and put in a detention centre.

“They told us to sign a document written in Hebrew,” he said. “We, the Algerians, refused to sign the document because we do not understand Hebrew and more importantly because we do not recognize Israel.”

In an appeal echoed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council has called for an impartial investigation of the deaths.

Writing by Christian Lowe and Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Peter Millership