20 Freedom Flotilla sailors still held in Israeli jail; Italian artists deported from Palestine

Twenty international solidarity activists on board the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza are being held in Israeli prisons, report the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.  The first boat in the flotilla, “Al-Awda,” was hijacked by Israeli occupation forces in international waters on Sunday, 29 July. The next boat in the flotilla, the “Freedom,” is still on the approach to Gaza. The Flotilla aims to break the Israeli naval siege on Gaza, Palestine.

Two activists with Israeli citizenship on the boats, Zohar Chamberlain Regev and Yonatan Shapira, were released on bail and charged with attempting to enter Gaza and conspiracy to commit a crime. The 20 international solidarity activists remain detained in Givon prison and were scheduled to begin meeting with their lawyer on Monday.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition noted that:

“Although the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) claim that the capture of our vessel happened ‘without exceptional incident’, eye-witness Zohar Chamberlain Regev reports that at the time of boarding: ‘People on board were tasered and hit by masked IOF soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.’ We urgently need to know the details of who was injured and how seriously, and what treatment they are receiving, if any. A military attack on a civilian vessel is a violent act and a violation of international law. Taking 22 people from international waters to a country which is not their destination constitutes an act of kidnapping, which is also unlawful under the international Convention of the Law of Sea.”

Mural on Apartheid Wall by artist Jorit Agoch.

In addition, two Italian artists, including well-known muralist Jorit Agoch, were ordered deported from Palestine on Monday, 30 July after they were seized by Israeli occupation forces for painting a large mural of Ahed Tamimi, 17, on the Apartheid Wall. The 13-foot-high painting was part of the celebration of Ahed’s release from over seven months in Israeli prison on Sunday, 29 July, along with her mother, Nariman.

The portrait was the focus of global media attention before the artists and the Palestinian driver who accompanied them were seized by occupation forces as they completed work on the portrait. The Palestinian man was reportedly released, as were the two artists, after their tourist visas were cancelled and they were ordered to leave the country within 72 hours. They were also banned from entering occupied Palestine for 10 years, much like other activists who have been denied entry to Palestine at Ben-Gurion airport or the Karameh/Allenby crossing.