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On May 31, 2010, a six-boat flotilla, carrying more than 700 civilians from almost 40 countries seeking to bring humanitarian and rebuilding supplies to the Gaza Strip as well as to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, was overtaken by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine passengers were killed, including one Turkish-American citizen. CCR filed eight Freedom of Information Act requests on June 30, 2010 with various US agencies and departments seeking information about the U.S. knowledge of, and response to, the attack on the flotilla. The requests also sought information about U.S. policy towards the on-going blockade of Gaza. After a lack of adequate response from all government agencies, on May 24, 2011, CCR filed a FOIA lawsuit in the Southern District of New York seeking immediate release of all responsive documents.
For more information on our advocacy around the Gaza Flotilla, please visit our issue page: ccrjustice.org/gazaflotilla.
CCR filed eight Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the United States government’s knowledge of, and actions in relation to, the May 31, 2010 attack by Israel on a flotilla of six vessels in international waters seeking to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, and U.S. policy towards the blockade of Gaza, which has entered its fourth year. The FOIA requests were made to a number of U.S. departments and agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Department of State, the Navy, the U.S. European Command and the U.S. Central Command.
Specifically, the FOIA requests seek information on what, if any, communications were made between the U.S. government and Israel prior to and after the attack; what, if any, information the U.S. shared before or after with Israel about any of the U.S. citizens abroad; what was done to secure the release of detained citizens; and what is being done to return property seized from U.S. citizens and other passengers and to ensure that such property, which includes evidence for any investigations into the attack, is not tampered with or destroyed. As international law requires that a flag-state be notified before its vessels are boarded in international waters, the requests specifically ask about communications between the U.S. and Israel regarding the U.S.-registered Challenger I, which Israel forces boarded, seized, and continue to hold at an Israeli port. A FOIA request was also made regarding communications with other countries and with organizations such as NATO in relation to the attack on the flotilla and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Finally, a request was made for information about U.S. policy towards Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has been found to be a form of “collective punishment” by various representatives of the United Nations.
Nearly eleven months after the FOIA requests were filed, only two agencies had responded, and their responses were wholly inadequate. On May 24, 2011, CCR filed a FOIA lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against eight U.S. departments and agencies seeking immediate release of documents regarding the U.S. government’s knowledge of and role in the deadly May 31, 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.