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Israeli Cover-up Hides Casualty Count

Yesterday morning Israel once again boarded a ship in international waters and kidnapped its passengers, forcing them and their vessel into port in Ashdod.

Watching the American media, one could almost hear the sigh of relief as so-called reporters repeated the storyline that this boarding was “peaceful.” No inconvenient repeat of Monday’s news of peace activists shot and wounded, no need for outrage at all it seems. All too common is the example of the New York Times which repeats the Israeli government’s account and then unashamedly tells us it was “confirmed” by the IDF hand-picked “Israeli journalist embedded with the navy …Ron Ben-Yishai of Ynet News.”

And this morning, the American media – including Salon – has picked up the Israeli interpretation of new photos published by Huryiet from Turkish sources which show Israeli soldiers injured during their attack on the Mavi, repeating Israeli claims that these are evidence of the violence of the passengers – but ignoring the evidence of the photos that the passengers are shown caring for the soldiers, not harming them – while the Israeli assault was still going on.

At the same time, the media has not even managed to confirm the number of dead, wounded and missing from Monday’s attack.

While most media are reporting that Israel killed nine activists during the initial attempt to land humanitarian aid, none have given a full account of how many were wounded and how severely. And Reuters, in an article about the autopsies on the murdered activists, wrote that:

The autopsy results showed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back, the Guardian said.

A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has U.S. citizenship, was shot five times from less than 45 cm (18 inches) away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back, it said.

Two other men were shot four times. Five of those killed were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, the Guardian quoted [Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine] as saying. In addition to those killed, 48 others suffered gunshot wounds and six activists were still missing, he added.

Let me repeat that: “Nine killed, 48 additional with gunshot wounds – and six missing, he added.”

I have been in touch with some of the organizers and none have been able – with certainty – to provide a definitive count but stressed that there remain unconfirmed accounts of 4-6 missing. From ISM via email:

I’m afraid there are no firm answers.  We know for sure of 9 deaths including one American.  There are at least 30 wounded, though the number seems to be rising now that people are returning home.  This is possibly because the Israeli government was under counting (i.e. bruises may not have been counted as an “injury”).  There are unconfirmed (and I really must stress the unconfirmed part) reports that six people remain unaccounted for.  No one has been able to pin this down.

Remember, the activists were held completely incommunicado until their deportation – and held separately from each other – as well as mostly denied consular visits. There was no way for them to track who was taken where or who was in the hospital  – and they were then released in multiple waves to multiple locations with, for example, all passengers from countries without diplomatic relations with Israel bussed to Jordan.

Only the Israeli government knows the final casualty count. And as we know, the IDF has avery skillful cover-up machine.

Reading the latest reports from passengers who have reached their home countries, it certainly sounds chaotic during the attack:

“People had been shot in the arms, legs, in the head – everywhere. We had so many injured. It was a bloodbath,” said Laura Stuart, a British housewife and first aider.
She described frantic attempts to treat the injured in a makeshift sick room on the ship, and failed attempts to resuscitate some of the dead.

… Canadian Farooq Burney, director of a Qatari educational initiative, said the commandos waited more than an hour before treating the wounded, even though activists had made a makeshift sign reading: “S.O.S. .. Please provide medical assistance.”

The 37-year-old Canadian said he witnessed one elderly man bleed to death before his eyes after being shot.
“He just passed out in front of us and we couldn’t see where he was hit so we opened up his lifejacket and we could clearly see that he was hit in the chest,” Burney said. “He was losing a lot of blood. It was on … the right, just close to his chest and there was blood coming out from there. He passed away.”

The nine dead activists, who were brought home on Thursday in wooden coffins, were all Turks, including one dual US-Turkish citizen. Yildirim said some activists were still missing, adding that an Indonesian doctor was shot in the stomach as he helped a wounded Israeli soldier.

So who provides a final, full accounting  – who counts the bodies?

With Israel’s US backed refusal to cooperate in an international, independent investigation including the UN’s proposed New Zealand, Turkey, and Israeli panel – and Israel’s seizure of reporter’s film and cameras – and participants belongings – we may never know.

We do know that Israel has been doctoring the “evidence” it has released. Max Blumenthal has uncovered two such instances:

The IDF admitted today in a press release that it doctored audio footage from its exchanges with the Gaza flotilla in order to paint the flotilla passengers as anti-Semites. I am beginning to wonder if the Israeli military hired James O’Keefe to handle its press shop.

Max also worked with Lia Tarachansky to dig out the reality of the Israeli press officers about “terrorists” being involved – Lia’s report is seen in the video above:

Not content to believe that night vision goggles signal membership in Al Qaeda, reporter Lia Tarachansky of The Real News Network and I called the IDF press office to ask for more conclusive evidence. Tarachansky reached the IDF’s Israel desk, interviewing a spokesperson in Hebrew; I spoke with the North America desk, using English. We both received the same reply from Army spokespeople: “We don’t have any evidence. The press release was based on information from the [Israeli] National Security Council.” (The Israeli National Security Council is Netanyahu’s kitchen cabinet of advisors).

The Independent (UK) writes of the attack video released by Israel – and so widely broadcast here :

The video is problematic, though. The images of angry protesters are striking, but they lack context. What happened before? What happened next? Had the soldiers started shooting when they descended to the deck? The only account offered by the Israelis of what happened next is left to Staff Sergeant S, a commando who claims he shot six of the protesters.
The last of 15 to arrive on the deck, he said he saw that two of his colleagues had gunshot wounds. Pushing others into a protective cordon around the injured soldiers, he shot at the protesters to force them to fall back. It’s a neat account, but several eyewitness accounts tell a very different story.
Mr Elshayyal, a reporter for the Arab channel al-Jazeera, was standing to one side of the ship and had a view of the front and back of the vessel when the fighting started. By his account, soldiers fired down on the protesters from the helicopters before an Israeli soldier had even set foot on the ship. A man next to him was shot through the top of his head, dying instantly.
“What I saw were shots being fired from the helicopter above and moments later from below – from the ships,” Mr Elshayyal said. “As far as I am concerned, it’s a lie to say they only started shooting on deck.”

The Independent goes on to note that IHH activists have claimed that the Israeli soldiers had a list with photos of who to kill – a claim impossible to verify but which would explain the footage in the Turkish TV live broadcast which shows activists displaying what looked like just such a list.

Finally, the article notes:

Meanwhile, much of the video footage confiscated from Marmara passengers remains undisclosed, and Israel has sought to undermine some eyewitness accounts by alleging some of the passengers were terrorist sympathisers bent on martyrdom.

Questions remain unanswered on both sides. But without a full and transparent airing of all the evidence, the truth of that dreadful night on the Marmara may never come to light.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com