Israel was determined to do anything to stop activists breaking its siege of Gaza.
More than 600 people took part in the Freedom Flotilla, which was carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid to the Gaza Strip.
It left Crete on 27 May, stopping in Cyprus on 28 May, before heading towards Gaza.
Three Israeli naval craft met the fleet on Sunday night outside Israel’s boundaries in international waters. Campaigners began to worry about Israel’s intentions.
“The convoy told us that Israeli planes and helicopters were there harassing and warning them,” Mary Hughes, one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement, told Socialist Worker from Cyprus.
“That was the last contact we had before the attack.”
Israeli commandos began the assault on the Mavi Marmara vessel at 4am. They descended from helicopters onto its deck.
Passengers and crew rightly attempted to resist the outrageous attempt to seize the flotilla. Israeli troops responded by firing at them.
At least nine people were killed and dozens more wounded.
The Israeli authorities had not given out an accurate count of the dead and wounded, more than 24 hours after the attack, as Socialist Worker went to press.
“We were stunned when we heard that Israeli troops were using live ammunition against people,” said Mary.
“Israel is trying to claim that it is the victim. This is outrageous. Heavily armed, masked troops boarded the boat.
“They attacked and killed peace activists, and then blamed them for the violence.”
Israel then seized the boats and brought them to the port of Ashdod, 23 miles north of Gaza. The flotilla’s passengers and crew were held incommunicado.
“The whole idea of the Freedom Flotilla was to break the siege of Gaza,” said Mary.
“One and a half million people are locked in a giant cage. More boats are coming. Myself and other grandmothers aim to board them and try to take aid into Gaza.
“Will Israel attack a boat that has grandmothers on it? Will killing old ladies make Israelis feel powerful?”
A conference on Stop Islamophobia, Defend the Muslim Community, organised by Stop the War and the British Muslim Initiative, takes place this Saturday at the Camden centre in London from 10am. It will now finish early in time to join the Gaza demonstration. For details go to » www.stopwar.org.uk