We've never seen blood like that, say Scots from boarded aid ships

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A SCOTS activist has described the moment he saw an Israeli military dog bite a man in the stomach aboard the Gaza aid flotilla last week.

• Scottish activist Theresa McDermott tells the press how people's faces were 'pushed into the deck' during the Israeli attack on the aid convoy Picture: Dan Phillips

Ali El-Awaisi, 21, was one of five Scots aboard the six vessels that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of the region and were stopped by commandos.

Nine activists were killed when the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli forces and Mr El-Awaisi, from Dundee, said he saw five bodies when he left the vessel.

Israel said its soldiers acted in self-defence when attacked by those on the ship and claimed to be within its rights to search the flotilla for weapons that could be smuggled into Gaza.

Speaking yesterday after being deported by Israel, Mr El-Awaisi said: "None of us has seen blood like that in our lives. It was a massacre. We were victims of their crime. I saw with my own eyes a dog bite this guy in the stomach. They're trained to kill.

"The soldiers took everything off me except my underwear. I would ask for water and they would smack me with the gun. They would not even let us go to the toilet. They didn't care at all.

"They offered me a bacon sandwich and I'm a Muslim and they were laughing at me."

Mr El-Awaisi vowed to return to Gaza if he could, and said his work was unfinished after trying to deliver 40,000 in aid from Dundee to the people of Gaza.

Fellow activist Hassan Nowar-ah, 45, said he had been between all the vessels in the flotilla and was aboard the ship named "8000" when it was raided.

The father-of-four, from Bearsden in Glasgow, said a young soldier had hit an 83-year-old activist and Mr Nowarah said he responded by pushing the soldier. He was then hit on the back and hit three or four times with an M16 rifle.

He said: "We were taught to defend, don't attack the Israelis, just be an object in front of them. There were 45 people on the ship and 50 soldiers came aboard."

Theresa McDermott, 43, from Edinburgh, was aboard the Challenger 1 and said they tried to challenge the soldiers verbally and tried to negotiate. She said: "I have never seen that level of violence used against internationals before. Two women were holding on to ladders to prevent soldiers reaching journalists on top of the ship, and they were dragged off and had their faces pushed on to the deck. Even when we were deported they were shouting and being aggressive to us."

The operation against the flotilla has drawn fierce international condemnation, seriously damaged Israeli ties with Turkey, and brought heavy pressure to lift the three-year-old closure of Gaza. All the Scots activists said they would return to Gaza if they could.

An Islamic charity yesterday released photos of Israeli commandos wounded in the deadly raid on Mavi Marmara. Several of the images, taken by an unidentified person aboard the ship, show an Israeli soldier surrounded by people aboard the Turkish-flagged vessel.

The photos were released by the Turkish activist group IHH, which is outlawed in Israel. According to IHH, the Israeli soldiers were hurt while storming the ship in confrontations with activists aboard, and were later returned to other Israeli troops who boarded the ship.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the images "shows that our boarding party in fact did face deadly violence from the hardcore Islamist activists on the boat from the fundamentalist IHH movement".

Osman Atalay, a senior IHH official, said the soldiers were in the first group of commandos that boarded the ship. He said the images show activists "intervening" or "tending" to the injured soldiers.

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