Osama Qashoo told a packed meeting how he carried an injured man, “By the time I got to the corner of the room, there was a hot material in my hand – I didn’t realise it was the man’s brain.” He hadn't realised the man was dead.
Osama was one of the eyewitnesses to Israel’s massacre of nine activists taking aid to Gaza who spoke at a 200-strong meeting at London’s Conway Hall last night. He is a filmmaker with the Free Gaza Movement.
He saw how the IDF treated one injured activist. “His knee was completely shattered. The soldier just took him and dropped him.”
The Israeli soldiers stopped injured people getting the medical help they needed, the witnesses said.
Laura, an activist from north London, said, “The floor was covered in blood. No-one expected such a vicious attack.”
A trained first aider, she was trying to help people but was forced to stop.
“Three Israeli soldiers pointed their guns at me and said they’d shoot if I didn’t come.
“I asked them to take people to hospital. They wouldn’t.”
Jamal Elshayyal is an al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.
“Hanin, the member of the Knesset on board, who speaks Hebrew, announced over the tannoy that there were critically injured people who needed help,” he said.
“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved.
“They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid.”
Jamal exposed Israel’s lies that the IDF had been “provoked” by people on board.
“I checked and filmed every centimetre and there was not one weapon on that ship,” he said.
“I saw one of the Turkish passengers shot in the top of his head from a helicopter. There was not one soldier on the ship when he was killed.
“After I’d seen two killed, the main organiser took off his white top to use as a white flag. Live fire was still used after that.
“There was an announcement in English and Hebrew saying the ship had been surrendered. There was still live fire after that as well.”
Osama said, “Everyone was panicking, running in different directions. Something fell on my head – it was a soldier. He got up and started shooting.
“We managed to disarm him – it was an act of self defence.
“I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it. They took their camera and filmed their own pistol, saying they’d found a weapon – it was completely staged.”
One by one, the Israelis captured and cuffed the activists.
“I was forced to the ground and beaten,” said Osama. “I could see their laser spots on me.
“Three of the soldiers sat on me. Every soldier who’d come and go would kick me, or spit on me. They put a plastic bag on my head.
“They twisted our hands, twisted the fingers into each other. I’ve now got no feeling in four of my fingers.
“We had a one-year-old child on board, Akram. They were beating me in front of him and he was crying.”
During the long hours sitting on deck, the captives were denied food, water and toilet rights.
“One of the guys was asking to go to the toilet, and the soldier said, go on yourself, said Osama. “In the end, he did.”
Jamal said, “I was cuffed, thrown to the ground and kicked. My face was slammed against the wall.
“One of the Malaysian activists had his hands tied behind his back so tightly that they were turning all sorts of colours.
“He asked for his hands to be loosened. The third time he asked, an Israeli soldier came over and tightened them. And the scream that came out…” he trailed off.
Bilal Abdul Aziz was on one of the flotilla’s smaller ships. “For 18 hours I was gagged,” he said. “I’ve still got scars from where they tied us with cable ties.
“People were shot with stun guns and beaten with truncheons. Me and many others were tasered.
“We were all in the same boat,” he added, to laughter.
Alex Harrison of the Free Gaza Movement said, “Everyone was pushed to the floor, face down in the broken glass.
“Two of the women were hooded, Guantanamo-style.”
“We could hear the sound of live gunfire around us,” she added.
After a slow journey to the port of Ashdod, the activists were searched and thrown in prison.
“They asked me to lift my shirt up,” said Bilal, “and then all the soldiers standing near me ran away. I was wearing a money belt… I guess they thought it was something else.”
Jamal said, “I asked for a lawyer – I was refused. The British consulate – refused. A phone call – refused.
“That was one of the most difficult times. You don’t know what the world knows about you.
“Throughout my time there I did not see a British official.
“I still don’t have my passport – it’s in the custody of the Israeli government, just months after they used British passports for murder.
Ibrahim, an activist from Gloucester, told how he was interrogated by the Israeli secret services. “The guy started becoming abusive, banging the table,” he told the meeting.
“He said, ‘you see those scars on your hand? This is not the end.’
“Before I left, he said to me, ‘watch out for your life’.”
Alex of the Free Gaza Movement said, “One woman had seen her husband killed, but she was just pulled away from him and thrown into prison with the rest of us.
“Later she was shown a photo of him, then 36 hours dead, and told ‘identify him’.”
As they were deported, she said she saw injured people forced to march to the plane unassisted.
“They were covered in blood,” she said. “They had not even been given a change of clothes or allowed to shower.
“They’d been shot in the tops of their feet – and they weren’t even allowed crutches to get to the aircraft. If someone offered them an arm they were screamed at. They were made to hop.
“The British consul was standing there when I was being deported. I said to him, ‘this is illegal.’ He said, ‘I know, but they do what they do.’”
She added, however, that day to day life was far worse for the people of Palestine.
“What we went through was not even one percent of what the Palestinians go through every day,” she said. “That’s what this is about.
“There is not a natural disaster in Gaza. This is not about aid. This is about their human rights, freedoms and dignity.”
The meeting was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supported by Stop the War. The eyewitnesses were joined by speakers including lawyer Daniel Machover, Stop the War’s Lindsey German, Bernard Regan of PSC and former Respect MP George Galloway.