The Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, has demanded an explanation from the Israeli ambassador over the controversial attack on the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’.
“We want a clarification over what has happened,” Bildt said to Sveriges Radio reporters after learning of the ill-fated boarding of humanitarian aid ships by Israeli military forces. “We know that there are Swedes on some of the ships and we want to know what has happened to them. There appears no reason to question media reports that a Turkish vessel has been boarded, that a fire fight occurred and that people have been killed,” said the foreign minister.
The flotilla departed from Cyprus on Sunday bound for Gaza, with around 600 people from 50 different countries onboard. Laden with 10,000 tonnes of aid, the convoy was intercepted by helicopters and warships 65 kilometres off the Gaza coast. A live video feed showed Israeli forces boarding one vessel and opening fire on passengers and crew members. Reports indicate that the death toll could be as high as 19, although this is being denied by the Israeli military.
Eleven Swedish nationals were part of the aid convoy, including Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan, theologian Ulf Carmesund, Jewish musician and artist Dror Feiler, and author Henning Mankell. Contact was lost with the group late on Monday, with Green Party leader Peter Eriksson fearing for the wellbeing of those activists visiting the war-torn region to engage in ‘non-violent, peaceful protest.’ “If Israel has used extensive violence and killed people then it has to be seen as very serious. And it is important that there are strong reactions from both Sweden and other countries,” said Eriksson in a report by The Local.
The Freedom Flotilla was organised by a number of activists from around the world in protest to the continued isolation of Gaza. The Israeli raids have been condemned by the UN.