Mankell accuses Israel of ‘piracy’

Top Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell has accused Israel of "piracy" for its attack on a Gaza-bound aid fleet and has denied weapons were stashed on the ships, in comments broadcast on Wednesday.

Mankell accuses Israel of 'piracy'

Mankell, the author of the popular Wallander series of detective novels, said Israeli commandos shot people who were sleeping during Monday’s raid on the flotilla, in which nine activists were killed and dozens injured.

“The Israelis transformed their navy into a pirate enterprise,” Mankell told reporters after he returned to the southwestern Swedish city of Gothenburg late Tuesday after taking part in the aid operation.

“All the ships (in the flotilla) were hijacked, and this was really piracy,” said Mankell, whose comments were broadcast by Swedish public radio on Wednesday.

“What will happen next year when we come back with hundreds of boats? Will they fire a nuclear bomb?” he asked.

Mankell was one of 11 Swedes who participated in the operation, which involved a total of 682 people from 42 countries aboard six ships.

“We had expected to run into trouble when we reached the border (of Israeli territorial waters), but we were mistaken,” Mankell said.

“Far from the limit, in (international) water, we were attacked… by helicopters, speedboats and other vessels and lots of commando soldiers who came onboard and hijacked ship after ship.

“They did not hesitate to attack using lethal force. They shot people who were sleeping,” he said.

Mankell said the Israelis’ claim that large numbers of weapons were found on the vessels was “nonsense.”

“On the ship I was on, they found one weapon: my razor. And they actually came up and showed it off, my razor, so you see what level this was at,” Mankell said.

The author further accused Israel of kidnap when it towed the ships to one of its ports and detained those on board.

“At the moment they started taking the boats towards Israel, we were all kidnapped. It is that simple,” he said.

Despite the aid flotilla’s failure to break Israel’s blockade against the Gaza Strip and deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies, Mankell said the operation was a partial success.

“Today we know that Israel is on its knees. No one could predict that the rest of the world would react in this way. They are completely isolated,” he said, adding “people are completely fed up with this brutality and this violence that the power (Israel) has on its conscience.”

He said he was in “despair” over the killings and added that he was also saddened to think of “some of our friends who are still sitting in some very uncomfortable prisons in Israel, where they are being beaten.”.

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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.