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Activists' eyewitness accounts detail Israeli raid on Gaza aid ship

ISTANBUL — Daily News with wires | 6/3/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Activists detained after their Gaza aid ship was attacked by Israeli commandos earlier this week began detailing their accounts on Thursday of what some activists called 'premeditated murder.'

Activists detained after their Gaza aid ship was attacked by Israeli commandos earlier this week began detailing their accounts on Thursday of what some activists called "premeditated murder."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the activists as "violent supporters of terrorism," charging that Israeli forces were "stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon" as they stormed the boat.

Eyewitness accounts differ from what Israeli security forces have said.

An Australian journalist on board the Gaza-bound aid ship said Israeli commando boats had circled their flotilla like "hyenas hunting animals in the night" before his colleague was shot with a stun gun.

Two Swedes aboard the Gaza-bound aid flotilla intercepted by Israeli forces this week said in a radio broadcast Thursday they had witnessed "premeditated murder" aboard the Turkish ship that came under the heaviest attack.

And the leader of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation or, İHH, Bülent Yıldırım, said he saw Israeli soldiers shoot a photographer and an activist who had already surrendered.

[HH] A 'very ugly' incident

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty were released from Israeli detention and deported to Turkey on Thursday, and said they were slowly recovering from their ordeal.

"We're fine, we're both fine," McGeough told the Herald's website from Turkey.

"We are leaving Israel on legal advice that we will be able to appeal our deportation in absentia," he added.

McGeough said Israeli boats had circled the flotilla like "hyenas hunting animals in the night" before moving in suddenly, describing it as a "very ugly" incident.

"Kate and I got pushed around," he said, adding that the atmosphere was "testosterone-driven."

[HH] 'We could have died'

"We were witnesses to premeditated murders," said Swedish historian Mattias Gardell who was on the Mavi Marmara along with his wife, fellow historian Edda Manga.

Manga and Gardell, who were among 11 Swedes taking part in the flotilla but the only ones on the Mavi Marmara, were on deck when the shooting began.

"I saw the ship's security personnel trying to prevent divers from climbing onto the boats," Manga said.

"Then one of our comrades said [the soldiers] were shooting and had killed three people ... [and] that we had to throw ourselves to the floor. We were on deck. We could have died," she said.

[HH] Shot after surrendering

Yıldırım, the leader of the Turkish İHH, said many people were wounded by gas bombs and that a journalist was taking photographs when he was shot by an Israeli soldier, adding that one of their friends was shot after he surrendered.

Yıldırım said passengers on the ship showed civil resistance, the press was there, and that the İHH called on the passengers not to allow Israeli soldiers in.

"We rendered ten of the soldiers who got on the ship ineffective, we took their weapons, but it would have been self-defense even if we had used those weapons," he said. "Still, we threw the weapons into the sea."

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Compiled from AFP and AA reports by the Daily News staff.

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