Organizer: ship deaths ‘premeditated murder’

The Swedish organizer of the Ship to Gaza has accused Israel of using disproportionate military force against a peaceful aid operation. Mattias Gardell said the Israelis had committed “premeditated murder” and were guilty of piracy.

Organizer: ship deaths 'premeditated murder'

Gardell, a professor of religious history at Uppsala University and the brains behind the expedition, returned to Stockholm on Thursday afternoon. He was accompanied by six other Swedes who had been held captive in Israel after their ship was boarded by Israeli soldiers.

The activists were met at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport by a crowd of journalists and sympathizers. Members of the crowd presented flowers Gardell and his colleagues, and chanted “long live Palestine” and anti-Israeli slogans.

Against the backdrop of Palestinian flags, Gardell repeated his account of what he called the murder of nine “civilian humanists.” He described the action of the Israelis as “an incomprehensible bloodbath”, saying that the Israelis knew the ships’ cargo was harmless.

He also said that activists had picked up whatever implements they could find to wrestle Israeli soldiers to the ground:

“There were no weapons on board.”

Gardell added that he had not personally witnessed many of the events on the ship:

“Everyone has a partial picture. It was dark and chaotic,” he said, but claimed that he had formed a more complete understanding of what happened by talking to other activists in prison in Israel.

Asked whether he thought the flotilla had brought a Palestinian state closer he said:

“I hope that these nine people did not die in vain. I hope that it at least undermines the blockade of Gaza so that Palestinians can access the same human rights as everyone else.”

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.