MANKELL EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT:
The Irish Times - Saturday, June 5, 2010
Victims shot 30 times, five in head at close range
ROBERT BOOTH in London MICHAEL JANSEN in Jerusalem and LORNA SIGGINS in Galway
ISRAEL WAS last night under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after post mortem results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian newspaper, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.
Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the post mortems for the Turkish ministry of justice yesterday.
The results revealed that Ibrahim Bilgen (60) was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan (19), who also had US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.
Meanwhile, the Irish-owned aid ship MV Rachel Corrie was 80 miles off the Gaza coast last night and was expecting to reach the 20-mile exclusion zone by 10am Irish time if it was not halted and hauled to the port of Ashdod by the Israeli navy.
Former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday said yesterday the 1,200-tonne ship would refuse to dock voluntarily at any port other than Gaza.s small harbour.
In response to an Israeli offer to allow international inspectors to search the ship in Ashdod or at an Egyptian port, Mr Halliday said: "We welcome a UN inspection to examine our cargo, which is solely construction and educational materials and medical supplies, but we believe this can be done at sea or in Gaza." The cargo holds were inspected and sealed before the ship left Dundalk.
Mr Halliday continued: "If the Israeli authorities wish to negotiate, they will have to contact the ship directly. We are very much in command on this. We feel we have the authority to continue, and we are more determined than ever to deliver this cargo."
Also on board are Nobel peace laureate Mairéad Maguire, Derek and Jenny Graham from Ballina, Co Mayo, and Dundalk film-maker, Fiona Thompson. Because the Malaysian Perdana Leadership Foundation . headed by former premier Mahathir Mohamed . purchased the vessel, Malaysian MP Muhammad Nizar bin Zakaria and barrister and author Matthias Chang Wen Chieh are also taking part in the voyage. On Thursday, the Free Gaza Movement, which launched the ill-fated flotilla, asked the Rachel Corrie to head for Cyprus or Crete to pick up other activists and journalists. They also requested that fresh insurance coverage be arranged to replace a euro 25,000 policy, which was withdrawn, reportedly due to Israeli pressure on the issuing firm.
As it is illegal to ply in international waters without insurance, Greta Berlin, co-founder of the FGM, dubbed this move "another kind of sabotage".
It is believed the hydraulic steering equipment of two Irish-owned yachts was tampered with before they were due to set off with the flotilla for Gaza.
But the activists have refused to disrupt the journey, already dogged by false starts and delays. Mr Halliday said: "If we berth in any other port, or turn back for Cyprus or Crete, we know we won.t be able to leave. And we will have no way of ensuring that our cargo reaches the people of Gaza."
Henning Mankell: 'That kind of stupidity I will never understand'
Swedish author and creator of Wallander gives a dramatic account of his experience as part of the Gaza aid flotilla attacked by Israel
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 4 June 2010 14.13 BST
MANKELL EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT:
Flotilla activists 'shot 30 times'
Al Jazeera speaks to some of the injured activists, who are recovering in Ankara Hospital
Autopsies on bodies of activists killed in Israel's attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla five days ago have revealed that the victims were shot multiple times at close range.
Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted Yalcin Buyuk, the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, as saying that the nine men were shot a total of 30 times.
Two men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, Buyuk told the newspaper.
Ibrahim Bilgen, a 60-year-old activist, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back, the autopsy revealed.
Nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan, a US citizen of Turkish descent, was shot five times from less that 45cm in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.
Nine people were killed in Monday's pre-dawn raid on the Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid, that was heading to Gaza in a bid to break Israel's blockade of the territory.
Israeli military said the marines, who boarded the ship in international waters, fired in self-defence after activists attacked them.
Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, when asked why a 60-year-old and 19-year-old, amongst others, were shot multiple times at close range, told Al Jazeera: "We learnt the hard way that terrorists can be of a variety of ages or backgrounds."
"They had one goal, they chose to confront us with knives and metal rods," she said.
'Shot from helicopter'
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, who was travelling in the flotilla and witnessed the Israeli raid, confirmed that some passengers took apart some of the ship's railings to defend themselves as they saw the Israeli soldiers approaching.
He said that he witnessed some of the killings, and confirmed that at least "one person was shot through the top of the head from [the helicopter] above."
Ali Haydar Bengi
"After the shooting and the first deaths, people put up white flags and signs in English and Hebrew," he said.
"An Israeli activist [on the ship] asked the soldiers to take away the injured, but they did not and the injured died on the ship."
The deaths, which all took place on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, continue to draw widespread condemnation.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, speaking during a televised speech said: "You [Israel] killed 19-year-old Furkan Dogan brutally. Which faith, which holy book can be an excuse for killing him?"
"I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says "thou shalt not kill". Did you not understand? I'll say again. I say in English "you shall not kill". Did you still not understand? So I'll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzakh'."
Talking about Hamas, he said: "[They] are resistance fighters fighting for their land. They are Palestinians.
"They won an election and now they are in Israel's prisons. I told this to the Americans, that I do not accept Hamas as a terrorist group."
Namik Tan, Turkey's ambassador to Washington, also warned on Friday that his country could break all relations with Israel unless it apologises for the raid against Mavi Marmara, which carried a Turkish flag.
Tan also said that Turkey wanted a credible independent investigation into the events and for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza.
Three Turkish activists wounded in the raid arrived back home on a medical plane on Friday. Another two volunteers who were seriously wounded remain in an Israeli hospital, with a Turkish plane on stand-by to repatriate them, Recep Akdag, Turkey's health minister said.
The US said that it would investigate the death of Dogan, the youngest killed in the attack, who had joint Turkish-US citizenship.
"We will look into the circumstances of the death of an American citizen, as we would do anywhere in the world at all times," Philip Crowley, a state department spokesman, said.
ANKARA - THREE of the four Turks killed in an Israeli raid on aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip were devout Muslims who wanted to be 'martyrs,' relatives and friends were quoted as saying on Wednesday.
The names of the victims have not been officially released, but the media identified them on Wednesday as four men, all involved in Islamic movements or charities.
One of them, Ali Haydar Bengi was described as a 39-year-old father of four who studied at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, a prominent centre of Islamic learning, and ran a telephone repair shop in Diyarbakir, in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-east. Bengi 'was helping the poor and the oppressed. For years, he wanted to go to Palestine. And he constantly prayed to become a martyr,' Bengi's wife, Saniye, told the Vatan daily. 'Before embarking on the journey, he said he desired to become a martyr. He wanted to be a martyr very much,' Bengi's friend, Sabir Ceylan, told the Milliyet newspaper.
Another victim, Ali Ekber Yaratilmis, 55, was described as an Ankara-based retired worker and father of five, who was a volunteer for the Foundation of Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Turkish Islamist charity that spearheaded the campaign to break the blockade of Gaza. 'He devoted his life to charity work... That's why he boarded the ship. He always wanted to be a martyr,' the Sabah daily quoted a friend, Mehmet Faruk Cevher, as saying.
The third victim, retired engineer Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, was a father of six and a supporter of the Islamist Felicity Party in the south-eastern city of Siirt, Anatolia news agency reported. 'He was an exemplary man, an exemplary philanthropist. That's why martyrdom suited him very much. Allah gave him a death he desired,' Bilgen's brother-in-law, Nuri Mergen, told Anatolia.
Vatan identified the forth victim as IHH volunteer Muharrem Kocak. Most of Monday's bloodshed occurred on a Turkish-flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from about 30 countries
Raed Salah, Arabic: ???? ?????, is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. First known among Arab citizens of Israel as a poet and father of eight children, Salah also served as the mayor of Umm al-Fahm - an Israeli-Arab city bordering the Green Line - in the 1990s. His popularity increased after his arrest by Israeli authorities in 2003 on allegations of funding Hamas.
Restrictions on movement and surveillance prior to his arrest
For eighteen months prior to his arrest in 2003, Salah was barred from leaving Israel. The newspaper produced by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement was shut down and charities he had founded were closed. Since the election of Ariel Sharon, the Shin Bet had been monitoring and taping phone calls made by Salah and his officials, and intercepting e-mails as well. It was rumored that over 200,000 recordings were awaiting translation from Arabic to Hebrew to prepare for his trial.
Arrest and two-year imprisonment
Arrested and jailed on suspicion of raising millions of dollars for Hamas in May 2003, human rights non-governmental organizations stated that he had been "unfairly denied bail despite his status and community ties." He was released two years later under a deal that barred him from traveling abroad and required him to check in with an officer every month. Salah said the charges against him were a "mockery".
While Salah and four other party leaders stood trial on serious charges of aiding and abetting a "terror organization", the Israeli police said the accusations revolved primarily around money laundering.
Jonathan Cook, author of Blood and Religion, has submitted that "The purpose of this persecution [of Salah and others] has to been to neuter all manifestations of Palestinian consciousness among the minority - to transform it into a docile and anonymous grouping the state likes to call the 'Israeli Arabs'."
This viewpoint was also echoed by Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, who told Ha'aretz newspaper in September 2004 that the arrest of Salah was "a stupid and oppressive step taken by the Israeli authorities, mainly to intimidate the Arab leadership especially the Islamic Movement."
Activities against Israeli excavation near the Temple Mount
On February 28, 2007, Israeli police prevented Christian and Muslim leaders from holding a meeting and press conference organized by Salah in East Jerusalem to put forward their opposition to Israeli excavation work being carried out near the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount complex. Police claimed that the organization behind the event, the al-Aqsa Foundation, was affiliated with Hamas. When the event was moved to another hotel after receiving a cancellation order, Israeli police moved in and broke up the meeting. Salah told the Guardian newspaper that this "childish behavior" on the part of Israeli security forces ".does not protect security. It actually makes the security situation explosive."
Western Wall comments
Salah has made several sermons, available on the Islamic Movement website, claiming that Jews have fabricated their connection to the Western Wall, which he refers to as the Al-Buraq wall. Ynetnews quotes him as saying "[The Western Wall] is part of Al-Aqsa's western tower, which the Israeli establishment fallaciously and sneakily calls the 'Wailing Wall'. The wall is part of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque," and "He who says that the Jews or the Israeli establishment has any right to al-Aqsa, even to just one stone - this is an abominable attack, a falsehood, completely baseless." 
Involvement with 2010 Gaza flotilla
Main article: Gaza flotilla clash
Early Palestinian news reports indicated that Salah was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head when Israeli commandoes raided a flotilla of six boats carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip. However, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the reports as "rumors" and claimed that Salah was not seriously hurt, but suffered minor injuries. After being removed from the ship and taken to Ashdod, Salah along with the head of the Islamic Movement's southern branch, Hamad Abu Daa'bas, will be relocted to the Ela Prison in Beersheba to await a court hearing in Ashkelon on their involvment with the flotilla.
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I.brahim Bilgen (2 March 1949 . 31 May 2010) was a Turkish politician, engineer and activist. He died during the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.
Bilgen's family migrated to Turkey from Mosul, Iraq. Born in Batman, Turkey he was a graduate of F?rat University electrical engineering department, a member of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers of Turkey and held a doctorate in psychoanalysis. He had been a resident of Siirt, a south-eastern city of Turkey, since 1980. He was married and had six children.
Bilgen was one of the founders of Virtue Party. After the Virtue Party was banned by the Constitutional Court of Turkey in 2001, he joined the newly formed Felicity Party. He was a candidate for Member of Turkish Parliament in 2007 for that party, but he was not elected receiving 0.96% of votes. In Turkish local elections, 2009, he was a candidate for mayor of Siirt, but he was again not elected. In a press interview during his 2009 campaign, he said: "I was born a Felicity man, I will die a Felicity man. Because Felicity is the only national party of Turkey. This party has neither come under the yoke of America, nor of any other country." Since then, he had been serving as a city investigator for the Felicity Party.
After working as an electrical engineer in various companies, I.brahim Bilgen founded Bilgen Mühendislik, an electrical engineering company, in 2004. In addition, he founded the local television channel SELAM TV, the first television channel to be founded in Siirt.
As a volunteer for IHH in Siirt, Bilgen joined the Gaza flotilla of May 2010 on board the MV Mavi Marmara, which set sail from Istanbul for the Gaza strip on May 23, 2010. He died on May 31, 2010, during the Gaza flotilla raid. The 60 year old was shot 4 times in the chest, head, hip and back.
Reactions to his death
* Afif Demirk?ran, Member of Parliament for the AK Party from Siirt, said: "May Allah accept the martyrdom of I.brahim Bilgen."
* A press statement by the Chamber of Electrical Engineers of Turkey stated: "We condemn the attack of Israel in which one of our members was killed."
* Photographs of I.brahim Bilgen were hung in the streets in Siirt.
* American Author and Journalist Ali Abunimah alleged that Bilgen may have been deliberately targeted for execution by Israeli forces who mistook him for Sheikh Raed Salah
Cause of death
According to an autopsy Bilgen died from four gunshot wounds to temple, chest, hip and back.
MANKELL EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT:
PHOTOS OF GAZA CHILDREN (murdered)
Former Assistant U.N. Secretary-General Denis Halliday aboard the MV Rachel Corrie
MV Rachel Corrie is a 499 GT coaster owned and operated by the Irish arm of the Free Gaza Movement. The ship is named in honour of Rachel Corrie, a former member of the International Solidarity Movement. It was originally called Carsten and has also carried the names Norasia Attika and Manya.
The Perdana Global Peace Organisation in Malaysia raised much of the funds from the people of Malaysia for the purchase of this ship.
The ship was built as yard number 625 by J J Sietas, Germany. She was completed in May 1967. She is 68.43 metres (224 ft 6 in) long, with a beam of 10.52 metres (34 ft 6 in) and a depth of 6.25 metres (20 ft 6 in). The ship is powered by a Deutz diesel engine which can propel her at 12.5 knots (23.2 km/h).
Originally named Carsten, she was sold in 1993 to P Buck, Antigua and renamed Norasia Attika. She was sold on 8 December that year to Ariadna Shipping Ltd, St Vincent. On 1 February 1994 she was placed under the management of H Möller KG, Germany. She was renamed Manya on 24 November 2000. On 23 February 2004 she was sold to Hanza Bunkering Ltd. She was renamed Linda on 24 November 2003. On 30 August 2005 she was sold to Lackner Ventures Ltd. On 28 November 2005, she was placed under the management of Eestinova.
Linda was used by Guinness for exporting beer before being converted for use as a freighter. Her port of registry was Phnom Penh. The IMO Number 6715281 and MMSI Number 515886000 are allocated. Rachel Corrie uses the Callsign XUJW8.
By 2009, the ship had been bringing timber into Dundalk from the Baltic for the previous 10 years. At the end of July that year, the Cambodian-registered vessel and its crew were abandoned by its owners, Forestry Shipping, of Riga, a company which has gone out of business. The crew were left with one day's food and were owed arrears of pay that totalled euro 42,000. With the assistance of the Irish union SIPTU, an affiliate of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), they were repatriated to their home countries in November 2009.
Free Gaza Movement
See also: Gaza flotilla raid
After being seized by the High Court on behalf of the ITF, the ship was sold at auction in Dundalk for euro 70,000 to the Free Gaza Movement on 30 March 2010. This enabled ITF Inspector Ken Fleming to pay the crew their arrears.
It was outfitted at Brown's Quay in Dundalk, Ireland, for use in a voyage to Gaza. While there, a significant amount of navigational equipment worth between euro 15,000 and euro 20,000 was stolen from the vessel.
It was named in honour of Rachel Corrie, an American college student crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer while protesting house demolitions in Gaza. The vessel was launched on 12 May 2010 from Dundalk.
In May 2010, the merchant ship was part of a flotilla of ships whose intention was to bring both humanitarian aid to the Gazan population and public attention to the Egypt-Israel blockade of the Gaza region; a blockade criticised by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for imposing "abject poverty" on 350,000 Gazans.   Former UN President and High Commisioner of Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has also criticised the "illegal blockade of 1.5 million people, half of whom are children."
The MV Rachel Corrie was not part of the flotilla when it was raided and detained by the Israeli military on 30 May 2010. At this time, the vessel was docked in Malta due to mechanical difficulties and was unable to depart as planned with the original flotilla on the East Mediterranean leg of the journey.
Former UN Assistent Secretary General, Denis Halliday, on-board the Rachel Corrie, has requested a final inspection of the cargo prior to the ship's last leg of it's journey: "We are calling on the UN to inspect the cargo and escort us into Gaza, and to send a UN representative to sail on board before they enter the exclusion zone.". Trade unions and government officials have previously inspected the cargo, "so we are 100 percent confident that there is nothing that is offensive or dangerous," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV.
The vessel is carrying cement, medical equipment (including a CT scanner) and educational supplies.
Mr. Halliday has expressed concern that some of these humanitarian goods would be likely to be seized if the MV Rachel Corrie accepted "an offer of an escort to another port". The cargo, although it falls within the remit of humanitarian aid as defined by the United Nations, "would be confiscated by the Israelis, given that they do not define this as humanitarian goods . in breach of the UN definition of same". 
There are eleven passengers on board the ship: Nobel Peace laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, film maker Fiona Thompson, husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham and six Malaysians: Member of the Parliament of Malaysia, for the Parit constituency, Nizar Zakaria; Perdana Global Peace Organisation representatives, Shamsul Akmar, Matthias Chang and Ahmad Faizal Azumu; TV3 reporter Halim Mohamed and TV3 cameraman Jufri Junid.   The ship is captained by Eric Harcis, a UK citizen from Scotland.
Irish Government demands
On 1 June 2010, the Irish Government issued a demand to the Israeli government to allow the vessel safe passage to Gaza. The Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD said "If any harm comes to any of our citizens, it will have the most serious consequences". The demand for safe passage was reiterated by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin TD on 2 June 2010. Mr Martin warned the Israelis he would take "appropriate diplomatic action" if the ship was not allowed through.
On 5 June 2010, the Irish Government made clear that it believes that the MV Rachel Corrie should be allowed to proceed to Gaza and to unload its humanitarian cargo.
Those on board the vessel had previously indicated that they were ready to accept inspection of their cargo at sea, prior to docking in Gaza and had requested for a UN representative to accompany the ship. A proposal, put to them by the Irish Government, was declined "after careful consideration" whereby the ship would dock at the port of Ashdod and the vessel's cargo would be inspected under the supervision of both UN officials and the Irish Aid Division for the Department of Foreign Affairs. The proposal followed from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs reaching an understanding with the Israeli Government on Friday, through various contacts.
As the MV Rachel Corrie continues on it's original course, Minister Martin has stated he "fully respects their right ... to continue their protest action by seeking sail to Gaza" and reiterated again, if the Israeli government intercepts the ship, "that it demonstrates every restraint" given that those on board the MV Rachel Corrie have "made clear their peaceful intentions". Again the Irish Government restated its "call on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. Pending that, Israel should immediately facilitate the import into Gaza of all goods, other than weapons."
Approach to East Mediterranean coast
As of late 4 June, it is reported that the ship is less than 100 miles from Gaza, and they are due to arrive at 0500 UT the following day. 
Passengers aboard the MV Rachel Corrie indicated on June 5 that the Israeli Navy had intercepted their vessel around 55 kilometers off the Gaza Strip, and have ordered them to divert to Ashdod. They are being shadowed by two Israeli Navy ships and their radar is being jammed.
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