Three female British nationals who had been attempting to take part in yet another effort to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza were brutally gang raped when, blocked from leaving the Libyan border, they were abducted and assaulted. Early reports are that the men who abducted and attacked the women are Libyan soldiers.
The women were part of a ten vehicle convoy which had been wending its way through southern Europe and northern Africa towards Egypt, allegedly seeking to bring in “humanitarian” aid to Gaza. Typically these efforts to break the legal blockade of Gaza carry little of real value, any of which can be brought in through other points of entry.
This vehicular convoy was organized by the Turkish nongovernmental organization IHH, which describes itself as a humanitarian relief organization, but which terrorism experts consider a “a radical Islamist group masquerading as a humanitarian agency.”
According to terrorism financing expert Jonathan Schanzer, the IHH belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization known to finance terrorism called the Union of Good. Schanzer wrote that “the Union is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known best for his religious ruling that encourages suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.” Qardawi is alleged to have personally transferred millions of dollars to the Union in an effort to provide financial support to Hamas.
The IHH, of course, is the same “humanitarian” agency that had organized the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in late May, 2010. During that effort Israeli naval forces repeatedly informed those on board the ships that they had to turn back and all goods could be distributed if they docked at the Israeli port of Ashdod. When the flotilla ships refused to turn back, Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship, where they were brutally attacked. The Israelis eventually opened fire, leading to the death of 9 aboard the ship, and injury to many more, including to the Israeli soldiers.
The “aid” convoy of approximately ten trucks left Britain on February 25, but had been detained for many days along the Libyan-Egyptian border. Egyptian border guards refused to allow them to cross into that country. The convoy was named the “Mavi Marmara” after the ship on which the Israeli and Turkish nationals had been injured during the 2010 confrontation.
The British nationals, frustrated by the long wait at the Egyptian border, went to Benghazi, hoping to make arrangements to fly back to Britain. It was in Benghazi that the five were abducted, and the three women, two of whom are sisters and who were accompanied by their father, were sexually assaulted. The father was present and witnessed the horrific assaults on his daughters.
The IHH allegedly mediated for the release of the captives, and they were released to the Turkish Consulate in Libya, where they are currently reported as safe and waiting to return to the UK.
The Libyan Deputy Prime Minister, Awadh al-Barassi, said he had been to visit the women who had been assaulted and their family was “in a very bad psychological state.”
“Sadly [the perpetrators] belong to army, but they don’t reflect the ethics of Libya army,” Mr al-Barassi said in an interview with the national Libya al-Hurra television channel.