In May, a flotilla carrying aid volunteers, medical supplies, prefabricated homes and food to Gaza was fired on by squadrons of Israeli navy soldiers in light watercraft and helicopters as the flotilla attempted to break a blockade. The attack left nine volunteers dead and several dozen more seriously wounded.
At the time, the Israeli military admitted no wrongdoing, citing "resistance" from the people on board the multiple crafts. They claimed that they were met with physical force from the unarmed aid workers.
Fatima Mohammadi, who lives in Chicago, is originally from Boise and did her undergraduate studies at Boise State. She was one of the more than 800 volunteers present in the flotilla. Also attacked were numerous women, some children, as well as a Jewish holocaust survivor, something the media called a lot of attention to. Earlier this week, Mohammadi spoke twice in Boise about her experience.
"The smaller boats ... they were boarded very easily, they were brutally taken over, and the people were treated awfully ... They were beaten, they had bags put over their heads ... The leader of the IHH [a Turkey-based NGO] jumped off the raft and was severely beaten by the Israelis ... If you stuck out at all, you were beaten," recounted Mohammadi.
During her Monday night talk, Mohammadi showed a video made the morning of the attack. While almost all other footage taken that day was confiscated by the military, a cameraman smuggled this footage out in his underwear, Mohammadi said. Mohammadi confirms—and the video appears to show—that the volunteers in the flotilla were unarmed, and that the military was unprovoked.
"This largest boat was the only one that was brutally taken over," said Mohammadi. "Violence was used before they had even boarded the ship. The crew was taken at gunpoint."
She maintains that while the aid workers were on the top deck of the ship, unarmed, they were fired upon by the soldiers.
"None of them were holding guns ... they were holding pamphlets, they were holding cameras," said Mohammadi.
The video was difficult to watch. At one point, numerous people dragged the lifeless body of a Turkish news worker who had been shot between the eyes; his blood stained a stretcher. Another scene showed a man dying from a severed artery, praying to Allah as medics raced to administer aid with the very supplies they were taking to the Gaza strip. To Mohammadi, the people of Gaza deserve the praise.
"They would tell us, 'Nobody knows what we're going through, so we understand that you can't really do anything for us,' Mohammadi said. But to them, we were the heroes ... they are the true heroes."