East End activist describes how he cheated death by inches on Gaza aid convoy

PUBLISHED: 18:14 03 June 2010 | UPDATED: 16:07 05 October 2010

by Julia Gregory AN ACTIVIST who was caught up in the Israeli ambush of an aid convoy to Gaza spoke about how he cheated death by inches. Kevin Ovenden who works as an ai

by Julia Gregory

AN ACTIVIST who was caught up in the Israeli ambush of an aid convoy to Gaza spoke about how he cheated death by inches.

Kevin Ovenden who works as an aid to former Bethnal Green MP George Galloway was on board the ferry Mavi Marmara when Israeli troops landed on the ship.

As a trustee of the Viva Palestina charity set up to deliver aid to Gaza and has been involved in two previous aid convoys - both of them by land.

This convoy attempted to force the Israeli's hand to allow them to bring the aid in by sea in a flotilla of six vessels.

He described what happened next and said it was pitch back and the ship was travelling at 22 knots when grenades and tear gas were released by the troops. He said: "I was below where they landed but I was able to watch what was happening.

"It became clear that they were using ammunition and that there was going to be a massacre. Everybody was terrified and were trying to act rationally to minimise the massacre and the number of people who were injured."

He added: "The man directly in front of me and the man standing behind me were both shot. One was injured in the leg and one in the abdomen. We all got inside to get their wounds treated in the emergency area."

He said nothing could prepare him for the traumatic experience on board the ferry on Monday.

He said fellow passengers included a one-year-old baby and an 88-year-old, along with German and Greek politicians.

Troops tied the passengers with cables before transporting them to prison in Israel.

Mr Ovenden, 42, said: "People were put into the stress position. It was degrading and humiliating treatment.

"There was an attempt to interrogate me and other passengers but I refused to co-operate."

He also hit out at Israeli accusations that the convoy was doing anything other than deliver aid.

He was released from prison on Wednesday and deported to Turkey where he met relatives of some of the nine people killed in the ambush.

He said the families had strengthened his resolve to campaign for an end to the blockade of Gaza.

George Galloway who was with Mr Ovenden on the two previous aid convoys is joining him in Istanbul tonight.

Mr Galloway had been on a speaking tour in the US drawing attention to the position in Gaza and had been in talks in Hollywood about making a documentary about Gaza.

Mr Ovenden who ran in the Tower Hamlets council elections as a candidate for the Respect party in Millwall is due back in the UK in the next few days.

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