A still from a YouTube video showing Soowahlie elder Larry Commodore on board the Al Awda as part of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. The ship was boarded by the Israeli navy on July 29 and all were detained. (YouTube)

VIDEO: B.C. First Nations elder arrested by Israeli navy en route to Gaza

Chilliwack’s Larry Commodore part of Freedom Flotilla bringing medical aid to Palestinians

A local Sto:lo elder was arrested and possibly injured on Sunday by the Israeli navy while he was taking part in an activist mission to bring medical aid supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Larry Commodore of the Soowahlie first Nation is among 22 members of international group of participants who were on the Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s ship Al Awda that was stopped and boarded by the Israeli navy about 50 nautical miles from Gaza.

Knowing arrest and detention was likely, participants on board created YouTube videos to be sent out after the incident.

Commodore’s pre-recorded video calls on those at home to contact the federal government and the Member of Parliament for Chilliwack-Hope.

“If you are watching this it means I have been kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces,” Commodore said. “I’m probably being detained in an Israeli jail. I want all those at home to contact the local MP for Chilliwack, Mark Strahl and Minister of International Affairs Carolyn Bennett. Contact them, tell them what is going on there and demand that Canada act to free me from the prison.”

It was unclear what condition Commodore is was in by Monday, but his friend and fellow Chilliwack activist Ian Stephen said Commodore was injured.

“Larry was arrested & taken to hospital for stitches,” Stephen said in a Tweet. “Was visited by Cdn Consular Services & asked them to tell us he’s ok. Prayers for his safe return home.”

The video was recorded before the predictable detention, and the boat’s participants were taken to Givon prison in Israel, according to a Freedom Flotilla Coalition news statement issued Monday.

“Israel’s capture of the lead boat in this Gaza-bound flotilla may seem like a predictable outcome to some, but that doesn’t make it any less violent nor any less illegal,” the statement said. “Our second boat Freedom will follow Al Awda within a day or two, and the Freedom Flotilla will continue until the blockade ends and Palestinians of Gaza regain their full freedom of movement.”

The Israeli navy reported the seizure of the Norwegian-flagged Al Awda happened “without exceptional incident,” but Israeli citizen Zohar Chamberlain Regev reported that people were tasered and hit by masked soldiers.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition describes itself as a “grassroots, people-to-people solidarity movement consisting of campaigns and initiatives from all over the world, working together to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.”

Over the years the group frequently tries to break the blockade to Gaza. The usual outcome is that the boat is stopped by the Israeli navy, those on board are detained, then they are deported to their home countries.

Of the 22 on board the Al Awda, two were Israeli citizens and were charged with attempting to enter Gaza and conspiracy to commit a crime. They were released on bail this morning.

Following the Al Awda is a Swedish-flagged yacht called Freedom Italy, with 36 activists from 15 different countries.

• RELATED: Chilliwack First Nations bands reject Kinder Morgan cash – Larry Commodore

• RELATED: Chilliwack-area chief touts economic benefits of pipeline deal – Larry Commodore


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The Al Awda before it left Italy for its mission to bring medical aid to Gaza. (Freedom Flotilla)

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