Mankell status unknown after aid convoy attack

The whereabouts of Swedish author Henning Mankell and the other ten Swedish activists onboard ships in the Gaza aid flotilla attacked by Israeli troops in international waters, remained unknown as the ships began to dock on Monday afternoon.

Mankell status unknown after aid convoy attack

The 62-year-old author of the Wallander detective series joined the flotilla from Cyprus by way of smaller boats “after almost 48 hours of playing hide-and-seek with Cypriot police,” Ship to Gaza Sweden said in a statement.

After the ships were attacked and boarded on Monday morning by Israeli defence commandos reports indicate that at least 10 people were killed and dozens more injured.

Mankell is thought to have been one of the nine Swedes onboard the Sofia (Eleftheri Mesogeios) which was the last of the ships to be boarded. No contact has been made with any of the ships on Monday with all communications blocked and a full blackout imposed on all media reporting from the vessels.

The popular author, whose books about world-weary detective Kurt Wallander have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and have been adapted to film and television, said last week that he was partaking in the flotilla to show his solidarity towards the Palestinian people.

“I think that when one talks about solidarity, one must always know that actions are what proves destiny,” he told Sveriges Radio last Thursday.

“It is with actions that we prove we are ready to support something we believe is important,” he said.

Among the other ten Swedes participating in the aid convoy including the theologian Ulf Carmesund, Jewish artist and musician Dror Feiler, Swedish Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan, lecturer and author Edda Manga, and theology professor Mattias Gardell, the brother of Swedish comic Jonas Gardell.

It remained unclear on Monday afternoon whether any of them had been wounded in the attack as the first of the ships entered port.

Mattias Gardell was one of the two Swedes onboard the Turkish boat MS Mavi Marmara which is the one featured on film footage showing Israeli troops opening fire on the activists, according to the Svenska Dagbladet daily on Monday.

The Freedom Flotilla, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on the last leg of a high profile mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza as part of a protest against the three-year long blockade.

Israel had said the attempt to break the Gaza blockade was illegal and warned that it would intercept the ships and detain the activists before deporting them.

The besieged ships are all set to be towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod where the activists are due to be detained and foreign citizens deported to their respective countries, according to the Israeli defence forces.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.