Israel deports detained Aussies
THREE Australian women held in Israeli detention were set to be deported as early as last night as Israel began expelling 600 Gaza flotilla protesters.
Photographer Kate Geraghty, hit in the arm by a stun gun during Monday’s raid by Israeli commandos on the flotilla flagship Mavi Marmara, and protesters Jerry Campbell and her sister-in-law Maryam Luqman were being held in Beersheba prison late yesterday, and were expected to be taken to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.
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Another Australian, Ms Campbell’s husband Ahmed Luqman, who was shot in the leg, was in the Rabin Medical Centre in Petah Tikua.
Mr Luqman and Fairfax journalist Paul McGeough, an Irish citizen but an Australian resident, were expected to stay behind. Those who leave must sign an agreement not to return to Israel for 10 years.
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At least nine people were killed and about 30 wounded when Israeli commandos launched a pre-dawn raid on the six-boat flotilla, ferrying protesters from 38 countries taking 10,000 tonnes of aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The families of Gold Coast couple Ms Campbell, 21, and Mr Luqman, 20, and 19-year-old Maryam, who were all on the Mavi Marmara together, said they were safe.
The Sydney Morning Herald editor Peter Fray said last night Geraghty appeared to have been “injured by an unidentified weapon – possibly a type of stun gun – during the Israeli raid”.
Ms Campbell, who grew up in Singleton, in the NSW Hunter Valley, phoned her father on the central coast yesterday to let him know they were all safe and would be cared for by Mr Luqman’s father in Kuwait.
“They are all OK,” aunt Erin Campbell said.
“Ahmed’s leg is broken but his father has said not to worry, he will look after them.”
Ms Campbell and her sister, Tegan, 23, went to the local Singleton high school before they moved to Terrigal with their parents. Ms Campbell and Mr Luqman were married and lived on the Gold Coast before travelling to Kuwait in February.
The couple then travelled to Turkey, with Ms Campbell telling friends on Facebook a fortnight ago: “Turkish food in Australia is so much better than in Turkey. Do not come here for the food people. You will be disappointed”.
In Turkey the three Australians joined the flotilla via the pro-Palestinian aid organisation IHH.
Kevin Rudd said yesterday he had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the fate of the detained Australians, saying he would not mince his words with Tel Aviv.
“I indicated that the Australian government was deeply concerned at the loss of life and injuries that had occurred as part of the Israeli Defence Forces operation,” Mr Rudd told Parliament.
Mr Rudd said he understood Israel’s unique security environment, but urged Israel do more to ensure a reasonable supply of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
“We are friends, at times, however, the role of friends is to speak plainly and that is what Australia has done in relation to this matter,” he said.
The IDF confirmed that the bulk of cargo on the flotilla was medical equipment and other humanitarian aid, and that no weapons were found.
The IDF displayed some of the cargo including boxes of medicine, wheelchairs, hospital beds and mobile electric chairs, but claimed Gaza already had enough of these. “The equipment that we found is all equipment that we have regularly allowed into the strip over the past year,” said Colonel Moshe Levi, commander of the Gaza Strip Co-ordination and Liaison Administration.
In Israel recriminations continued with former Israeli minister and leading figure in both Labor and Meretz, Yossi Sarid, referring to Mr Netanyahu and his inner cabinet as “seven idiots”.
Israeli officials said about 300 Turkish protesters were bussed to Tel Aviv airport yesterday, while about 150 Arabs and Muslims from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations were taken to the Allenby Crossing to enter Jordan.
The departures came as Israel faced growing condemnation from NATO, the EU and the UN.
Turkey, an ally of Israel, escalated its criticism with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on Tuesday night describing the raid in which four of his countrymen died as “a bloody massacre”.
Mr Netanyahu rejected calls by the UN Security Council for an independent investigation and defended the three-year blockade of Gaza. “It’s important to understand that this is essential to protect Israel and its right to defend itself,” he said.