RAMALLAH, May 31 (JMCC) - A large crowd of Palestinians gathered in the center of Ramallah Monday afternoon to protest the Israeli military’s attack on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza.
Protesters waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted slogans as numbers swelled into the hundreds when they took to the streets to express visible anger over the incident.
“Of course I am angry and very sad about all these human rights defenders that were coming and supporting the Palestinian struggle and trying to break the siege on Gaza and face the crimes from the Israeli army,” said Sahar, a Palestinian woman who came out to join the Ramallah protest.
Palestinians across the board are hoping the international community will act to punish Israel for the latest incident of violence.
“We as Palestinians and I think all the people of the world are counting on the international community to condemn this action of the Israeli government,” said Rashid Shahin.
“I hope that this time it will not just be on the level of asking ambassadors to come and condemn them and give them political letters, but to take serious actions especially from the states of the victims,” said Sahar. “They need to investigate what happened on the ships this morning and take really serious action against Israel.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories in honor of those who died.
The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyya, has called on Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to suspend recently started proximity talks with Israel over what he called a ‘massacre’ by the Israeli military.
Early reports claimed at least 10 people were killed and scores injured when military helicopters dropped Israeli commandos on board one of the passenger vessels carrying hundreds of humanitarian activists bringing supplies to the blockaded Palestinian territory.
“I am not too surprised that Israel responded violently, but the fact that they did it in international waters, I think is unprecedented and unexpected,” said Betty Anderson, an international volunteer at a local school in Ramallah.
Activists on board and the Israeli military have issued disputing accounts of what happened immediately after the confrontation began. The Israeli military claims they were attacked by activists armed with sharp weapons and possible gunfire, but have admitted that the operation may have taken place in international waters.
Organizers of the flotilla have expressed outrage over the heavy-handed Israeli response to their humanitarian mission.
Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement told Aljazeera English that Israeli actions amounted to ‘murder.’
“We were prepared for some confrontation,” said Audrey Bomse a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, “but not for a military attack on civilian boats.”