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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Norwegians on convoy under arrest

Three Norwegians who were on board the convoy heading for Gaza that was attacked by Israeli soldiers on Monday reportedly are now sitting in an Israeli jail, according to Norway’s Foreign Ministry. Norwegian diplomats were frustrated, though, because Israeli authorities had blocked all direct contact.

“The Norwegians have been localized,” Bjørn S Jahnsen of the Foreign Ministry told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning. He said ministry officials were finally informed, after a full day of waiting, that the three have been taken from their boat to a prison about two hours outside of Tel Aviv.

Jahnsen said Israeli officials claimed the prisoners were uninjured, but Norwegian officials still hadn’t been allowed to talk with them directly.

The three, including a woman from Hamar, were among the hundreds of aid workers and activists trying to deliver supplies to Gaza, which has been subject to an Israeli blockade for the past year and a half. They are attached to the Free Gaza movement, which opposes the blockade, and were bringing paper for school books and backpacks for school children when Israeli soldiers attacked the convoy in international waters.

The Israelis shot and killed several persons and wounded others. Exact numbers remain unconfirmed Tuesday, not least because the Israelis have put what Norwegian diplomats called “a lid” on information surrounding the attack, except for what they decide to release. It wasn’t possible to confirm the Israelis’ version.

The fate of the Norwegians was unknown, because all communications from the vessels in the convoy were cut. They were on board the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which was boarded by the soldiers and reportedly suffered the most casualties. The Israeli government claims the soldiers fired in self-defense after boarding the vessel.

The incident has provoked anger in Norway and elsewhere around the world, with the Norwegian government calling Israel’s attack “completely unacceptable” and repeating demands that the blockade be lifted. 

Diplomats were on their way to the prison Tuesday and hoped to be allowed to talk to the Norwegians later in the day. Jahnsen said they would be put through a “deportation hearing” that may take a few days before they’re allowed to leave Israel.

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