ALGIERS (Reuters) - An elderly man was shot and then bled to death after Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, a Canadian man who witnessed the incident told Reuters on Thursday.
Farooq Burney, who was on board the Mavi Marmara ship, also said activists who snatched pistols from the commandos removed the cartridges and threw them away, contradicting Israeli assertions the weapons were used against the boarding party.
Burney, director of a Qatari educational initiative, said the commandos waited more than an hour before treating the wounded, even though activists made a makeshift sign reading: “S.O.S. .. Please provide medical assistance.”
Nine activists were killed in the raid on a convoy of ships heading for Gaza on Monday, prompting an international outcry and increasing pressure on Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza.
Israel said marines who rappelled onto the Mavi Marmara fired in self-defense after activists clubbed and stabbed them and fired at them with the pistols snatched from the commandos.
Burney, 37, told Reuters in a telephone interview he witnessed one elderly man being shot with what, from the wound, appeared to have been a live round.
“He just passed out in front of us and we couldn’t see where he was hit so we opened up his lifejacket and we could clearly see that he was hit in the chest, he was losing a lot of blood,” said Burney.
“It was on .. the right, just close to his chest and there was blood coming out from there. He passed away.”
Burney said he was on the vessel’s second deck as Israeli marines were lowered on to the boat from helicopters.
“They were trying to land on the boat. So obviously there was this hand-to-hand combat and during that process the people on the boat were basically able to disarm some of the soldiers because they did have guns with them,” he said.
“So they basically took the guns away from them and took the cartridges out and threw them away.”
Asked if anyone had used the guns against the Israeli commandos, he said: “No, not at all.”
Speaking from Istanbul, where he arrived after being released from Israeli detention, Burney said the Israeli military began firing objects at the ship before the boarding party landed.
“There were a lot of gunshot noises that could clearly be heard. Whether they were rubber bullets, whether they were live ammo, there was a lot of gunfire coming from the helicopter, coming from the boats (alongside the Mavi Marmara.)”
Burney is director of Al Fakhoora, an organization which according to its Internet site promotes education in Gaza and the West Bank. He said he was bringing a consignment of laptops for delivery to universities in Gaza.
Once the Israeli military established control over the vessel, the activists went down into one of the ship’s saloons, Burney said.
“We were surrounded by the army and from the window they were telling us to sit down and not to move,” he said.
“And during this time people inside were dying, they were just passing out and we made up this big sign ... and we wrote on it ‘S.O.S., Please provide medical assistance’ and we were announcing that constantly on the PA system.”
“But no help arrived for about more than an hour and finally they opened the door and they asked us to bring the people, the injured, one by one.”
Editing by Charles Dick