Directly contradicting initial reports from the Israeli Navy that the boarding of a Swedish vessel traveling to break the blockade of Gaza was an "uneventful" incident, campaigners reported Tuesday that several people on board, in fact, were violently treated and shot with tasers.
"At least four people were tasered and one was lightly wounded," Loukas Stamellos, spokesperson for the global Freedom Flotilla Coalition, told Common Dreams over the phone from Athens, Greece. "We were questioning the military's narrative before, but now we know at least some people were hurt and there was violence during the interception."
The following video, just released by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, shows Swedish peace sailor Charlie Andreasson being tased multiple times by an Israeli combatant, explained David Heap, spokesperson for the coalition. (Warning: footage may be disturbing.)
Basil Ghattas, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset who was on the Marianne, confirmed to the Middle East Eye that the Israeli military's takeover of the ship was indeed violent.
Staffan Granér, spokesperson for Ship to Gaza–Sweden, emphasized to Common Dreams: "It's important to document the violence our activists suffer, but it is also really important to realize that this violence and these crimes are something that happens every day and every week in these waters to fishermen from Gaza."
At least nine people from the international crew remain in Israeli custody after their ship was seized early Monday morning roughly 100 nautical miles from Gaza. A total of 18 people from around the world were on the vessel, and those who are not currently detained have been deported.
Campaigners argue that Israel's seizure of the vessel—named Marianne of Gothernburg—in itself constitutes piracy and kidnapping, as the boat was in international waters.
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Swedish officials echoed this argument. Veronica Nordlund, speaking on behalf of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, stated on Tuesday: "Granted the information we have been given, the Israeli navy intervention took place in international waters. According to law it’s only the flag state, in this case Sweden, who is allowed to act against another ship in international waters. Sweden has expressed their opinion on the event to Israel."
The Marianne was sailing alongside three supporting vessels—Rachel, Vittorio, and Juliano II. Altogether the boats carried 47 people from 17 countries under the banner of "Freedom Flotilla III."
Israel has a bloody history of attacking such vessels, including the 2010 assault on the Mavi Marmara ship sailing from Turkey that killed nine people and wounded dozens.
Despite the risks, global campaigners continue to sail in a symbolic show of solidarity and resistance to the blockade, which is politically and financially backed by the United States and enabled by the direct participation of Egypt.
The three supporting vessels in Freedom Flotilla III turned back to the Greek ports they embarked from following the Israeli military's seizure of the Marianne. But global campaigners say they are already setting their sights on the next voyage.
Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal-based engineer and writer, is aboard one of the supporting boats in the Freedom Flotilla III that is currently en route to Greece. He passed along the message to Common Dreams: "We are proud of everyone who participated in Freedom Flotilla III, whatever their role. Now we are focusing on future flotilla to continue to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends completely and Palestinians regain their full rights."