The array of equipment found on board the ships that made up the Gaza aid flotilla was as divergent as the flotilla’s stated aims.
On the one hand there was medical equipment aimed to help ease the suffering of Gaza’s sick and handicapped, and on the other there were knives, slingshots and night vision goggles, which indicate hostile goals.
Israeli military officials have said that the amount of goods found on the ships are a drop in the sea compared to the amount of goods that regularly pass into Gaza, and extrapolated that it indicates that transfer of humanitarian assistance was not the top priority of the flotilla’s organizers.
According to the military, the 25-odd truckloads of equipment offloaded from the ships is roughly a quarter of the amount Israel transported into the Gaza strip every day.
According to the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, 100 truckloads of assorted goods are transferred into Gaza daily, and since the beginning of the year, nearly 11,000 trucks full of equipment have been transferred into Gaza.
Regarding the types of goods found in the ships’ cargo holds – wheelchairs, stretchers, hospital beds, electric wheelchairs, crutches, bandages, cotton swabs as well as food, clothing and toys – sources in the Gaza CLA say they are regularly allowed into Gaza and are not in shortage.
Aid organizations in Gaza say that the amount of truckloads imported since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 is approximately one-fifth the number registered during the first five months of 2007, and that much of the equipment transported by the Israelis does not constitute humanitarian assistance as it goes to commercial merchants, who then sell goods to the poverty-stricken population.
What is needed, they say, are things like CT scanners, x-rays, fluoroscopes, infusion pumps, medical sterilization gasses, laboratory equipment, UPS (uninterrupted power supply) batteries, and spare parts for support systems like elevators, none of which appeared to be on the ships.
Also found on the ships were materials specifically banned by the Israeli authorities, such as cement and metal rods, which Israel fears may be used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations to build bunkers and weapons.
While the rest of the material was promptly transferred to the Kerem Shalom crossing, where it still awaits pickup on the Palestinian side, the construction material will be kept in Ashdod Port pending decisions on what to do with it.
Other items that won’t be transferred to Gaza are the weapons and military equipment found aboard the Mavi Marmara. These include knives, clubs, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks and night vision goggles. The military says that the presence of these items on board the ship proves that the passengers had hostile intentions from the start.
The fact that all the weapons and military supplies that the army uncovered were found on a single ship, the Mavi Marmara, indicates that perhaps just a few of the flotilla’s participants were in on the plans to violently attack boarding soldiers, while the rest of the participants were sincere in their desire to send aid to Gaza.
With the Rachel Corrie already on its way to Israel’s territorial waters and the IDF vowing to prevent it from reaching Gaza, it will be interesting to find out what she’s carrying.