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Nov-12-2010 17:29TweetFollow @OregonNews
DRAMATIC VIDEO Gaza Activists Taken to Sea Against Their Will Now Held at Gunpoint in GreeceTim King Salem-News.com
"We may be going to jail according to one of the officials onboard the ship. In the meantime we remain confined" - Ken O'Keefe
(SALEM, Ore.) - Stories are circulating the world about the Gaza convoy activists who were taken captive aboard a Greek freighter that had been chartered to transport the Convoy from Derna Port in Libya.
A good deal of information is being directed to our newsroom and this is my attempt to add clarity to what is actually taking place.
This is important because propaganda is already circulating the discredit the activists.
One of those being held against his will is our writer, Ken O'Keefe, a former US Marine who today is an Irish citizen. Ken recently completed an international speaking tour in the NW US and Canada with Salem-News.com.
The activists say they were kidnapped at the Libyan port of Derna, by the Captain and crew of the Strophades IV.
The Captain and crew have since left and the Greek authorities are now holding them hostage on board the Strophades IV.
Anna O'Leary recently posted on Facebook this urgent statement from the hostages aboard the Strophades IV:
"Ten of us are being held... at gunpoint by a... Greek SWAT team, in a small room 8x8ft. We have been told if we move we will be shot. We have requested sleeping facilities, showering facilities, access to telephones/internet and consular assistance - all have been denied. In the last 48 hours we have had one tin of coke and one sandwich to eat. We have had no access to water other than that in the toilets. We have to ask permission to do anything, including using toilets. We have no status. We do not know the nature of the charges we are being held under and feel extremely vulnerable. We ask that everyone please put pressure on the Greek government and demand that they end this nightmare. We want the Greek authorities to release us and allow us safe passage to Libya, where we can join the remaining members of the Road to hope convoy and proceed with humanitarian aid to Palestine."
The ship-owner company “Ionian Bridge” that owns Strofades IV, claims that the activists had not paid for their transport, stating that a written transport agreement did not exist.
The crew members described the ship's captain as unreasonable and "acting crazy", while the shipping company claims that the captain took the vessel to sea because he was "frightened" (for) the safety of boat and payment.
However it is the skipper and crew of the Strofades IV that took the group of convoy activists captive.
The activists are unarmed.
Greek media reports that the Authorities of Malta, the booth of enterprises of ministry of Marine Affairs, Islands and Fishery and the Greek ministry of Abroads were notified by the captain that he was enroute to Greece.
He reportedly stated that he was "concerned" that the vessel would be forced to travel to Gaza, when Gaza was always the clear, stated destination.
The Road to Hope Convoy set out from the UK with vehicles packed with aid for the 1.5 million residents of Gaza who live under the direct control of the Israeli military. Gaza has been repeatedly attacked by Israeli Defence Forces and during one attack that began in December 2008 and lasted through January 2009. More than 1400 people were killed in Gaza; almost all were civilians.
Israel blames their deadly attacks that left over 200 schools and more than 50 medical facilities damaged or destroyed, on the military group Hamas which was elected to power legitimately, but never recognized by the US or Israeli governments. Hamas halted suicide bombings several years ago. Israel constantly talks about the 'Hamas rocket attacks' on Israel; yet research shows that since the unguided rockets began flying in 2001, they have claimed a total of 28 Israeli lives.
Israel kills more than 1400 people at a time.
Since 2006, Israel has kept the Gaza borders closed. People can leave, but never return. Last May a flotilla of ships attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza by sea. One of those ships, the Mavi Marmara, was attacked by Israeli commandos who killed nine unarmed peace activists.
Interestingly, Israel painted the activists as 'terrorists' and even designated our good friend Ken O'Keefe as a "terrorist". It is a hell of a notion in the modern world. Israel denies it, but the IDF used used white phosphorous on Gaza and also depleted uranium; both are illegal to use in civilian areas. Fiery chemicals burned through the roofs of Gaza's homes burning tiny children and their mothers and fathers at their dinner tables.
Israel's attack on Gaza was horror show.
The United Nations investigated the attack and stated in a report written by Justice Richard Goldstone, that Israel had committed numerous war crimes during the Gaza attacks known as 'Operation Cast Lead'.
In the wake of the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008/09, Israel chose to not allow construction materials into the Gaza Strip, and they also severely limited food and medical supplies.
So activists have intensified their energy to break the Gaza siege imposed by Israel, which has been deemed illegal by the United Nations. People in Gaza live in poverty, with a lack of sanitation in many cases and no ability to do business with the world. They are denied numerous rights granted under the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948.
There is no argument if you stick to the facts. Israel operates an apartheid government and maintains separate laws for Arabs and Christians, than it does for Jews.
The Gaza Road to Hope Convoy had a mostly uneventful trip as they caravaned across Europe, eventually arriving in Tubruk, Libya, hoping to cross the Egyptian border and drive the convoy to the Egyptian entry to Gaza at Rafah. This crossing has reopened in the wake of the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara.
But Egypt elected to not allow the convoy overland passage. Instead, they were told they could take the convoy to Gaza by sea. Many days passed, and then finally an arrangement was made to load the convoy aboard a vessel called the Greek flagged ship Strofades 4.
Dispatches from O'Keefe and others in the Convoy indicated that progress was being made in recent days. The people of Tobruk, Libya were extremely kind to the convoyers and they expressed gratitude several times over the gracious treatment they received in Tobruk and at other points along the way.
More time passed, messages indicated that the convoy was going to be loaded on the Strofades 4. Then suddenly, two days ago, everything seemed to go horribly wrong. It is important to note in light of recent statements, that there was never a question that the vessel was being chartered to go to Al-Arish port in Sinai, 40km away from Rafah border, from where they will enter Gaza. Money was brought to the Captain, at a point when seven various officials from Libya were aboard the ship negotiating the passage to Gaza.
Apparently, the ship's captain at this point, started "acting crazy" according to Ken O'Keefe and others from the convoy. He did this however, after an agent arrived onboard to transfer a $75,000 payment. Exactly what happened to cause a major disturbance with the captain is unknown.
The captain of the Strofades 4 departed his moorings in Libya and damaged the dock in the process. Only one vehicle from the Road to Hope Convoy had been loaded and it was only partly loaded, with the loading ramp still partly open, when the captain broke the moorings and departed.
It has been reported that the captain never planned to go to Gaza for fear of an attack from the Israeli military, but that was the deal from the beginning; the only reason the ship was chartered in the first place.
After breaking the moorings, the Strofades 4 headed to sea and eventually arrived in Greece. This leads back to where we started; now Ken O'Keefe and the others are being held at gunpoint apparently by the Greek military. We can clearly tell from their statement that they are distressed. It is not clear whether Greece is reacting to pressure from Israel.
We will release more information when it becomes available.
Here is dramatic footage of the moment the Strofades IVcaptain chose to violently pull away from the docks. Special thanks to Anna O'Leary for getting this video online:
Previous reports on the Road to Hope Convoy:
BBC News coverage:
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