Thursday, April 21, 2011

Activists restart work after Gaza murder


GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Members of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement resumed their activities in Gaza on Wednesday, days after the murder of an activist from the group.

Five members of the organisation gathered at a dock in Gaza City to restart work monitoring Israeli treatment of Palestinian fishermen seeking to ply their trade on a small strip of ocean off the coast of Gaza.

Such monitoring was done frequently by Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian member of ISM who was found hanged last Friday, hours after his kidnap by a radical Islamist Salafist group.

The activists, from Belgium, Italy and the United States, were joined by around 200 Palestinians for the ceremony, and observed a minute of silence in Arrigoni's memory.

Flowers were also sprinkled over five boats preparing to take part in the monitoring activity, as people waved the Palestinian flag.

Inge Neefs, a member of ISM, said the activity had been Arrigoni's favorite way to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinians.

"The idea is to have a human rights monitoring boat out in Palestinian water to document potential human rights violations at sea," she told AFP.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, caretaker prime minister Salam Fayyad mourned Arrigoni's death at a conference honoring non-violent protest against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bilin.

"Killing Arrigoni was a hurtful blow to us and all international volunteers, but this huge participation today assures us that the International Solidarity Movement is still strong," he said.

"Despite what happened, international solidarity with us continues," he added, noting the presence of dozens of foreign representatives at the conference.

Arrigoni, 36, was a long-time member of the International Solidarity Movement and had been living and working in the Gaza Strip for much of the past three years.

A previously unknown radical group claimed responsibility for his kidnapping in a video that was posted online and showed Arrigoni, his face bruised and bloodied and his hands bound behind his back.

The group demanded the release of Salafist prisoners, including a senior Salafi leader, and threatened to kill Arrigoni within 30 hours if their demands were not met.

Hamas security forces found his body shortly afterwards, ahead of the stated deadline, in an abandoned house in northern Gaza.

Security forces in Gaza have so far arrested three suspects in the case. Another two were killed during a Tuesday raid in central Gaza.