In the blackness before the rising of a burnt-orange moon, all that could be seen of the Israelis around us were pin-points of light, as warships sitting a kilometre or more either side of the flotilla inched in - seemingly to squeeze the Gaza-bound humanitarian convoy.Now the over-use of force makes sense. They weren't scared. They were frustrated.
Then, the tightening noose. Sneaking up and around every boat, there were bullet-shaped hulks that soon became impossible to hide as the moonlight made fluorescent tubes of their roiling wakes. First one, then two and maybe four could be seen sneaking in from the rear.
They hunted like hyenas - moving up and ahead on the flanks; pushing in, then peeling away; and finally, lagging before lunging. But as they came alongside the Mavi Marmara, the dozen or so helmeted commandos in each assault craft copped the full force of the ferry's fire hoses and a shower of whatever its passengers found on deck or could break from the ship's fittings.
Suddenly, sound bombs and tear-gas were exploding on the main aft-deck, where prayers were held five times a day. The lifejacketed passengers on the rails at first seemed oblivious as those behind them donned the few gas masks that were on board and others, wearing asbestos gloves, sought to grab the devices and hurl them back at the Israeli commandos - before they exploded.
In failing to get their grappling irons to hold on the rails of the five-deck ferry, the commandos in their assault craft continued to be an irritant, or perhaps a decoy because at this point the Israelis opted for a critical change of plan - if they could not come up from the water, then they would have to drop from the sky.
They had tried to use grappling hooks, and it hadn't worked. The activists on the Mavi were ready for them, and just removed them, while (non-lethally) pushing the commandos away with water cannons. They also tried tear gas, and that didn't work too well either; the activists simply threw the tear gas back, and knew that the gas was going to be used; that's why they brought the masks. (Which doesn't make them terrorists; it just makes them intelligent.)
As distress flares launched from the ship cut through the steel-beam spotlights on Israeli helicopters hovering overhead, the first Israeli commandos who slithered down ropes from the choppers were easy pickings for activists who rushed the upper decks on hearing the machines moving into place.That's the end of what the journalists were able to recount. The rest comes from other activist sources:
At this stage, Challenger I's British skipper, Dennis Healey, opted to gun the ship's engines, hoping to break away from the Israelis swarming the rest of the flotilla.
On hearing the helicopters, activists on the upper decks rushed to the top level of the ship - grabbing the commandos even before they landed, disarming them; beating them till, according to some who were present, their leaders demanded that the Israeli's not be harmed; but in one case, one of the Israelis was hurled from one deck to the ship to the next.Son of a BITCH. THAT is why we only saw that one snippet of video. THAT is why it is constantly repeated without context. THAT is why they were so fucking paranoid about seizing the journalists' video. If any other video had been shown, we would have seen that that soldier was never pushed into the water at all.
Go look at it again. At 0:36, the soldier is clearly pushed off the deck, but we never see him hit the water.That's because he didn't. He was pushed off the deck onto another one a few feet below, in order to keep him out of the melee!
You also never see that the activist leaders stopped the others before the Israelis could get seriously hurt. Notice how the video is noticeably cut at several places, most noticeably at 0:21 and 0:29? And how there is a pan away from the melee at 0:26? It never pans back. We had no IDEA when that stopped. Now we do. It stopped as soon as it was clear that the commando was subdued.
There were conflicting accounts of the first commando's landing - some activists said he was injured and was being carried inside the ship for treatment by the flotilla doctors. However, a Serbian cameraman, Srojan Stojiljkovic, said that some of the activists had armed themselves with lengths of chain and metal posts.Funny how this wasn't mentioned, huh? The activists treated the commandos' wounds. If they're murderous Islamists, they're really, really terrible murderous Islamists, aren't they? And that's not even getting into the guys who made sure to "shelter him with their bodies". I wonder how many of those guys got a bullet or two for their trouble?
''Some of the people caught the first commando before he touched the deck - a few started to hit him, but a lot of people moved in to shelter him with their bodies,'' the cameraman said. ''Another soldier with a bleeding nose was brought in … a few people threw punches, but not as many as I would have expected.''
Matthias Gardel, a leader of the Swedish Palestinian support group, confirmed that the soldiers had been beaten, but insisted that those involved were unarmed and that in keeping with the ship's non-violent charter, the soldiers' weapons were thrown overboard.Soon after the soldiers had been treated, the injured and dead from among the ship's passengers were brought in.This is a consistent point as well. The IDF insists that they were shot at with their own weapons; but the activists insist that the weapons were thrown overboard.
And notice something else? They treated the soldiers first.
Mr Stojiljkovic said: ''Some were not badly wounded, but then a guy was brought in with a point-blank shot between his eyes - he was dead and I was told that another person was killed in the same way.''
The Turkish actor Sinan Albayrak said he had witnessed one of the most senior of the Turkish activists ordering passengers to cease beating two of the Israeli soldiers. Later, he saw a Turkish photographer who had been shot in the back of the head; and while he and others had been attempting to assist another injured activist, Israeli troops had opened fire on them.Well, this corroborates the other stories I'd read about that Turkish photographer. I hadn't read about the other injured activist and his friends getting murdered—there is NO other word for it—but it hardly surprises me at this point.
Mr Gardel said that the bulk of the passengers had remained in the second deck saloons and had not been involved in resisting the Israelis. ''But a bunch of people tried to protect the bridge, the engine-room and the point from which we streamed the live video,'' he said.
Another activist, a Turk, lifted his shirt to reveal 10 puncture marks in a rough and black-bruised circle, about the circumferences of a tea cup, which he said had been inflicted when he was bitten by an Israeli security dog while assisting the Israelis as a translator.Lovely. Puts those stories about humane treatment of prisoners in perspective.
The dead are believed to include Turkish journalist Chetin Genghis, whose head wounds suggested he had been shot from above - possibly from one of the Israeli helicopters.
Another of the dead was said to be an Indonesian cameraman, Sura Fachrizaz, who was shot in the chest. Also among the dead was a Malaysian doctor who, activists said, was shot while treating the wounded.Shot from above. Shot while treated wounded. "Defense", that ain't. It is understandable: already-jumpy and frustrated commandos, who were nothing more than glorified prison guards to begin with, went completely apeshit when the "live fire" order went out. The ROEs went right out the window, if there were even ROEs to begin with, and they just started shooting everybody in sight.
(And, quite possibly, started dumping bodies over the windows when they realized how badly FUBAR the situation was. But that hasn't been corroborated yet.)
Pity that most Americans haven't seen that video. They won't, of course. The narrative in the U.S. has already been set. We're already seeing the usual suspects make the usual apologias for the usual crimes. I doubt this very story will see much play in the U.S. at all. But outside of Israel and the United States, everybody is going to know what the score is. Especially now.
As the 100-plus reporters and other media workers on board followed orders to return to the ship's press room, after being told by the captain that his vessel was now under Israeli control and that all resistance was to cease, many were crestfallen by a sense that an Israeli blanket of ''white noise'' had prevented them from getting the story out.
But then one of their number flicked the switch on a large flat-screen TV on the wall. It burst into life with a Turkish channel, running the live-feed video that the ship had been transmitting to websites run by the Free Gaza Movement and the flotilla's other sponsors - it was scenes of the Israeli takeover of the Mavi Marmara. A resounding cheer went up.
There's another story about the lengths that Kate Geraghty had to go to to keep those photos by the way. She had to secret the SD cards around her body with gaffer's tape. The IDF was that desperate to make sure that we only saw their single, edited, out-of-context minute of footage.
Kudos to her. Kudos to both her and Paul McGeough for telling this story. Now we know.