Six Greeks return home

Six Greek citizens who had been aboard ships stormed by Israeli commandos on Monday returned home safely yesterday but authorities in Athens were unable to communicate with another 31 Greeks who remained in detention in Israel for a second day, along with dozens of other activists. As diplomats in Athens and Tel Aviv appealed to Israeli authorities for information about the detainees, the Greek government expressed outrage. President Karolos Papoulias described the Israeli assault on the ships, which resulted in the death of at least nine people, as «illegal and beyond the rules of international law.» «It throws the peace process into upheaval and fuels extreme tension in the region,» Papoulias said. Prime Minister George Papandreou too denounced the attack on the ships, saying it was «unacceptable and deserves to be condemned.» He added that the violence used by the Israeli commandos «cannot be justified.» Papandreou reportedly sought an explanation from Israeli authorities regarding the 31 Greeks who are stuck in Beersheba jail. According to sources, he was told that «they are not in jail but in detention.» The same sources told Kathimerini that there was no explanation for why the six Greeks had been freed and the remainder kept in custody. The Greek ambassador in Tel Aviv, Kyriakos Loukakis, last night managed to gain access to the jail where the 31 Greeks are being held – along with 31 Britons, dozens of Turks and smaller groups of other nationalities. But sources said that Loukakis had not been able to update authorities in Athens on the status of the detainees due to a block on mobile phone signals. Earlier yesterday Loukakis had asked Israeli authorities to free the Greeks, noting that their arrests had taken place in international waters. Speaking to the press yesterday, some of the freed Greek activists described the violence used by Israeli soldiers during the raid. «Some people were hit by clubs and suffered electric shocks,» Aris Papadokostopoulos, who had been aboard the ship Free Mediterranean, told The Associated Press. Dimitris Gielalis, who had been on the vessel Sfendoni, was more explicit. «They used plastic bullets, we had beatings, we had electric shocks, any method you can think of, they used,» he said.