June 1, 2010 / 4:13 PM / 10 years ago

Timeline: Main events in the Gaza flotilla affair

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of events in the standoff in the eastern Mediterranean between a flotilla headed for Gaza and the Israeli navy which ended with nine pro-Palestinian activists being killed when Israeli commandos stormed one of the ships on Monday. (all times GMT) Sunday, May 30

Israeli commandos are seen on a Gaza-bound ship in the Mediterranean Sea in this frame grab taken from footage released by DHA on May 31, 2010. Israeli commandos intercepted Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists on board were killed in bloodshed that plunged Israel into a diplomatic crisis. REUTERS/DHA via Reuters TV

1400 - Flotilla of six ships heads for Gaza from rendezvous off Cyprus. They are: Turkish cruise liner MV Mavi Marmara, carrying 581 of the 700 or so activists and chartered by Islamic charity IHH; Greek freighter Eleftheri Mesogeio and passenger craft Sfendoni; Kiribati-flagged Defne Y, a cargo ship; and two U.S. flagged vessels, the Challenger 1 and Challenger 11.

1800 - About a dozen Israeli naval vessels including a Saar 5 class corvette, the INS Lahav, set sail from Haifa and Ashdod ports to intercept the convoy in international waters.

Monday, May 31

0100 - In international waters, some 120 km (75 miles) west of Haifa, the foreign skippers ignore calls in English through loudhailers for the ships to turn around or be escorted to Ashdod. Commandos began boarding each vessel, racing across in dinghies and rappelling onto the decks from helicopters.

Five of the six ships are commandeered swiftly with few injuries, although activists voice outrage at their treatment.

But on the Mavi Marmara, things go wrong. Whether through poor planning or poor execution, the first handful of marines aboard quickly find themselves isolated and overpowered by dozens of protesters armed with clubs and possibly knives.

What was meant as a swift seizure by commandos armed with riot gear and paintball guns turns, according to the Israelis, into a hostage crisis, with disarmed troops wrestled to the ground and fearing for their lives. Some leap overboard. Others pull out pistols they had brought, strapped to their legs, for emergencies. Soon, 9 activists, mostly Turks, are dead.

0300 - With the Mavi Marmara finally in Israeli hands, the explanations begin. Troops say they came under fire first. Protesters may have taken pistols from the first marines aboard, they say. But the survivors are in custody and incommunicado, so the picture of what happened on the upper decks is unclear.

1200 - The ships, under Israeli control, start to arrive at Ashdod, where passengers are taken ashore for questioning. Some are treated for injuries. Most are held in Ashdod and Beersheva. Without phones, their version of events is not heard outside.

1400 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after changing plans twice, cuts short a trip to Canada and calls U.S. President Barack Obama to cancel a Tuesday White House meeting.

Tuesday, June 1

From 0000 - Several dozen activists from the flotilla are taken to a detention center at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for deportations which take place through the day.

1100 - Netanyahu lands from Ottawa. He visits wounded marines before convening his security cabinet at 1400.

Additional reporting by Rami Amichai and Michele Kambas in Nicosia, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

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