The first two of three planes carrying 466 activists from the Gaza-bound aid flotilla intercepted by Israeli forces has arrived in Istanbul from Israel, Turkey’s deputy prime minister says.
The planes were also flying back the bodies of nine activists killed when Israeli commandos took control of the six aid vessels, Bulent Arinc told journalists at the airport.
Israel has identified four of the dead as Turkish nationals, but there has been no word as to the identity of the others.
Claims of ‘intoxication’
Some of the newly arrived activists would be tested at an Istanbul forensics institute to check suspicions that they had been “intoxicated” by the Israelis, said Arinc.
A crowd of about a thousand people was gathered at the airport waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and shouting anti-Israeli slogans.
On Wednesday, three planes carrying activists wounded when Israeli forces stormed the ships – 18 Turkish nationals and one Irishman – arrived in Turkey.
Four Australians are being deported from Israel where they have been held in detention after commandos stormed the aid ship.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said the four were transferred from the Beersheva detention centre to Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.
Injured Australian recovering
Three of them are expected to travel to Turkey on Thursday, the department says.
Australian officials are making arrangements for their arrival.
It’s not known what the fourth Australian plans to do.
A fifth Australian, 20-year-old Ahmad Luqman, who was shot in the leg during the incident on Monday, remains in hospital in Israel.
The five were aboard a flotilla trying to take aid to the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza when Israel forces boarded.
At least nine people died in the raid, sparking widespread international condemnation of Israel.
Mr Fray said the Herald was still deeply concerned at the circumstances surrounding the detention of Mr McGeough and Ms Geraghty and their deportation.
He said Paul McGeough had reported that he and Ms Geraghty were “fine” and Kate was recovering from injuries she received when she was hit by a “stun-gun” as Israeli forces boarded the boat.
Journalists receive legal advice
“Paul and Kate have agreed to be deported only because they have had legal advice that they will be able to appeal their deportation even after they have left Israel,” Mr Fray said.
Huwaida Arraf, a dual US/Israeli citizen released from detention on Wednesday, was on board the US-flagged vessel Challenger 1 with Ms Geraghty and Mr McGeough.
“She (Ms Geraghty) was trying to send out some pictures before our boat was taken over, but all of our satellite capabilities were jammed and she was not able to do that.”
Once the commandos boarded the vessel, one of their first acts was to seize all communication equipment, cameras and memory cards, Ms Arraf said.