Emotional homecoming for Gaza flotilla activist

There were emotional scenes today as one of the last Irish activists seized during the Israeli storming of a Gaza aid flotilla was reunited with his children.

Al Mahdi al Harati hugged and kissed his four youngsters as he touched down at Dublin Airport more than a week after the bloody attack.

The 37-year-old, who suffers from diabetes and an underlying heart condition, was admitted to hospital in the Turkish city of Ankara after he collapsed when his sugar levels fell too low.

Mr al Harati, originally from Libya, revealed that Israeli commandos shot him in the leg with a plastic bullet, hit him over the head with a gun so hard that he needed a CAT scan and injured him in the groin area.

“They are not human beings,” he said angrily.

The Arabic teacher was a passenger on the Challenger 1 when Israeli authorities launched a military-led takeover which left nine pro-Palestine activists dead.

His anxious wife, Eftaima Al Najar, said she had to keep a brave face throughout the week for their children – aged nine, eight, six and 18 months - who thought their father was on holiday.

“It was only when I found out he was coming home that I told them what he did and how brave he was,” she said.

“They are delighted he is back and so proud of him for doing something so adventurous.”

Speaking through his wife, Mr al Harati described how troops jumped on the ship and started attacking those on board randomly and tying their arms.

“He said he went into a room to protect the captain with another guy and he was attacked with a gun over the side of his head,” she said.

“When he went to hospital in Turkey he had to get CAT scans there because they thought he might have had a fracture.

“He was actually shot on the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet and he was badly beaten in the groin area too.

“He had a rough time of it on the boat.”

Mr al Harati said that while he was being detained he was not given any food by young Israeli soldiers, who knew of his condition but sat nearby eating.

“They were literally starving, he collapsed when his sugar levels fell so low,” she added.

“They had no mercy for him, this is not human behaviour.”

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