12 Malaysians among 124 Gaza-aid activists released

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ALLENBY BRIDGE, Jordan: Twelve Malaysians, are among the 124 Gaza aid activists who were released by Israel on Wednesday.

Wisma Putra on Wednesday confirmed their release by Israeli authorities at 11.20am Malaysian time.

Astro Awani reported that its journalist Ashwad Ismail, and cameraman Samsulkamal Abdul Latip had safely arrived in Jordan.

Astro Awani vice-president and general manager Rozina Aziz when contacted, efforts were underway by the Malaysian embassy in Jordan to bring the 12 back to Malaysia.

Ashwad, in a televised interview shortly after his release, said there had been no sharp objects as alleged by Israeli commandos who stormed the ship carrying relief supplies bound for the Gaza Strip.

“People on board our ship were only using water to try to repel the commandos who were coming on to the ship. I did not see any sharp objects. Perhaps they were only the usual metal items that can be found on any ship,” he said.

He also said he was handcuffed with Samsulkamal when they were being taken to the Israeli port city of Ashdod before being released 28 hours later.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said a motion would be tabled in Parliament on Monday to strongly condemn the attack by Israeli military on the aid ship Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The activists from 12 Muslim nations – most of them without diplomatic ties with Israel – crossed the Allenby Bridge aboard five Jordanian buses.

Israel has, however, said that another 50 activists were still under detention in the country for questioning.

Earlier, Wednesday Kuwaiti ambassador Sheik Faisal Al Sabah had said that in addition to the 16 Kuwaitis aboard the buses, the other activists came from Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.

Dozens of other activists remain in Israeli detention, but most are expected to be deported in the coming days.

The bridge across the Jordan River is under Israeli control. It links Jordan with the West Bank.

Jordanian government spokesman Nabil Al-Sharif said there were 30 Jordanians in the group. Jordan is one of two Arab nations with a signed peace treaty with Israel.

The bridge’s Jordanian chief, Brig. Mahmoud Abu Jumaa, said Jordan will help repatriate the activists – who include lawmakers and journalists – to their respective countries in coordination with their governments.

Worldwide condemnation has poured on Israel since its naval commandos halted the aid flotilla in international waters overnight Monday, setting off a melee that left nine activists dead and dozens wounded. Turkey, an unofficial backer of the flotilla, has led the criticism, accusing Israel of

Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman left for Jordan to work with its authorities to secure the release of the 12 detained Malaysians.

Anifah left for Jordan at 10.15am Wednesday. He is due to reach Amman at 1.30am Malaysian time.

On Tuesday, Anifah said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had instructed Wisma Putra to use all channels to save the Malaysian volunteers who were on the ship.

“Our priority now is to make sure that the Malaysians are released safely and as quickly as possible,” he told The Star.

Eighteen Malaysians were involved in the humanitarian mission, with six on board another ship, the Rachel Corrie.

Mavi Marmara was leading a convoy of six vessels bound for Gaza to deliver aid to 100,000 Palestinians when it was attacked by Israeli commandoes in international waters at 10.30am Malaysian time on Monday.