Protests fly after Israel attacks convoy

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Norwegian police were bracing for planned protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Oslo on Monday,  after Israel attacked an international convoy sailing with supplies to Gaza. The fate of Norwegians on board the convoy remained unclear following the attack, in which at least 10 persons were killed by Israeli soldiers.

Norway’s government expressed “deep concern” over the attack and was being urged to formally complain to the Israeli ambassador, like other countries were doing around the world. The Israelis claimed the convoy was carrying weapons and that its “intent was violent.”

Others claimed the convoy was a humanitarian mission to bring sorely needed aid to Gaza, which remains in ruins after Israel’s bombing 18 months ago. The European Union was launching a full investigation, not least because of claims the attack was made in international waters.

Among those on board the convoy were a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a Holocaust survivor and at least three Norwegians including Randi Kjøs of Fellesorganisasjon (FO) in Hedmark, which tries to aid the Palestinians. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported she and her colleagues were carrying paper for school books and backpacks for school children in Gaza.

“We never in our wildest fantasies would have thought a peaceful mission like this would be attacked by Israeli soldiers,” said George Moland of FO, who said he was “deeply, deeply shaken” by Israel’s aggression.

‘Expression of frustration’
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said last week that the convoy “was a powerful expression of the frustration the international community feels over the lack of progress in rebuilding Gaza.” 

The Norwegian ministry had said the convoy was organized by volunteer, humanitarian organizations and parliamentarians from European countries, who were carrying medicine, building materials, cement and other needed supplies.

Støre called it an “initiative” in reaction to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. “I have repeatedly made it clear to the Israeli authorities that (the blockade) doesn’t serve Israel’s interests and only serves to undermine the Palestinian authorities and strengthen the Hamas regime in Gaza,” Støre said, adding that “it’s Gaza’s civilian population” that’s paying the price for Israel’s politics.

Now at least 10 persons, possibly as many as 15, have paid the price with their lives after being shot by Israeli soldiers who stomed the convoy’s vessels. The Israelis claimed they found weapons on board. Details remained sketchy, not least because all communication with the vessels were cut off.

Norwegian police, meanwhile, were barricading Parkveien, the busy street just behind the Royal Palace where the controversial Israeli Embassy is located. As the palace got ready for what’s supposed to be a festive visit by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on Tuesday, police were also arming themselves after Palestinian supporters planned a demonstration at 5pm.

Views and News staff