Richmond protest called to condemn deadly military attack by Israeli forces on international humanitarian aid activists!

Local anti-war activists and members of Richmond’s Arab-American and Muslim communities will gather from 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1, outside Richmond City Hall to condemn yesterday morning’s murderous attack – in international waters – by Israeli military forces against unarmed humanitarian aid workers. The protest, a sidewalk vigil, is being called by the Arab American Association of Virginia and the Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality.

The protesters will demand the immediate release of the surviving aid workers, international condemnation of the Israeli government for this criminal act and the immediate lifting of the three-year Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It has been reported that, early on the morning of May 31, 20 unarmed civilians, members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, were killed and 50 more wounded in an illegal, barbarous and completely unprovoked attack that took place in the Mediterranean Sea some some 75 miles off the coast of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

About 700 international activists on six ships were attempting to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million people who live under Israeli siege in Gaza when they were intercepted by Israeli naval vessels and helicopters. According to reports from the flotilla ships as they were under attack, Israeli commandos ignored a white flag raised after the first activist was killed, continuing to fire on the unarmed civilians. The six ships and the surviving activists were then reportedly towed to an Israeli port to face deportation or imprisonment.

Among those known to have been part of the flotilla effort is Ann Wright, the former U.S. Army colonel and State Department official who turned against the Iraq War and has since become a prominent peace activist. As of early this morning, it could not be determined if Col. Wright was among those killed or wounded in the attack.

For the past three years, the residents of the narrow Gaza Strip have been living in a virtual state of siege as Israel maintains a military-enforced blockade. Israel’s position is that it imposed the blockade after the Hamas organization “seized control” of Gaza in 2007. In fact, Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006 as a result of an internationally supervised election in which its rival, Fatah, a more moderate Palestinian grouping favored by the U.S. and Israel, lost the vote. When Fatah attempted to physically regain control over Gaza, it was defeated and driven from the Gaza Strip. Israel immediately clamped down its blockade. In January 2009, in an effort to destroy the Hamas organization, Israeli forces carried out an aerial bombardment and then ground invasion of Gaza, actions that resulted in the deaths of many hundreds of innocent civilians.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is the latest of several attempts by international solidarity activists to break through the blockade, expose the crimes of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people and deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza.

For more information, contact the Arab American Association of Virginia at 804-239-2414 or jml.abed@gmail.com or the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality at (804) 644-5834 or DefendersFJE@hotmail.com.

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