07 Feb 2009
Read the Arabic original here. Translated into English by Deena.
Al-Jazeera correspondent in Lebanon, Bushra Abdul Samad, reported that eight Lebanese including Al-Jazeera correspondent Salam Khidr, and photographer Muhammad Aliq, were on board of the Lebanese boat, al-Ukhwah, to break the siege imposed on Gaza. They arrived at the Lebanese territories through al-Naqurah crossing, one of the checkpoints on the Lebanon's borders with Israel.
The passengers of boat were attacked by the Israeli soldiers who smashed their equipment and confiscated their communication devices, before they redirected the boat to the port of Asdod, to prevent it from delivering the humanitarian aid it carried to the people of the Gaza strip.
After her arrival at the Lebanese territory on Friday morning, Salam Khidr said that "the boat had been intercepted by the Israeli boats in the territorial waters of Egypt."
She added that the Israeli soldiers physically assaulted the people on board and had opened fire in the direction of the boat before they head to the port of Asdod.
Al-Jazeera Correspondent also spoke of the sufferings the occupation soldiers put them through, and said that they were repeatedly interrogated in private.
On his part, Muhammad Aliq said that some camera equipment was confiscated, including films of the pictures he took during the breaking into the boat by the Israeli navy.
The eight Lebanese passengers were met by their families and Lebanese, Palestinian and Arab activists. Israel had transferred them to the Naqoura crossing handcuffed.
Likewise, the Syrian-born Archbishop Hilarion Capucci and five other activists who were on board of the ship, arrived at the Syrian lands after having been transferred to the Golan. They too were met by a number of Syrian government ministers and leaders of the Palestinian factions.
Khidr had pointed out earlier that two Israeli boats came close to theirs and chased after it in the international waters until it entered the Palestinian waters across from Gaza where they started climbing on board.
The Israeli attack took place after the Lebanese boat declined the orders of the Israeli military boats to turn back with their cargo to where it came from.
In a phone call with Al-Jazeera, the owner of the Lebanese boat, Mohamed Al-Youssef, confirmed that occupation soldiers opened fire during the climbing. He also confirmed that the soldiers destroyed all the communication devices, causing them to completely lose contact with the crew and supporters.
The Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad al-Sinyorah,
, expressed his condemnation of what he decried as blatant aggression on the boat. "We grew accustomed to Israel ignoring all the legal and humanitarian standards", he said.
In Beirut, journalists and activists working for civil society bodies staged a sit-in in front of al-Jazeera office in protest to Israel’s interception of the Lebanese aid boat. Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi, who described what happened in Tel Aviv as a terrorist act, also participated in the sit-in.
The occupation army admitted after inspecting the ship that they did not find any weapons or ammunition on board.
It is worth mentioning that the boat carried over sixty tons of food and medical aids offered by Lebanese civil societies.