Friends of a Victoria man who was aboard a convoy of ships stormed by Israeli soldiers off the Gaza coast say he’s a “teddy bear” whose activist work was driven by a near-death experience.

And they’re worried about what happened to Kevin Neish, a retired marine engineer,
after the violent confrontation between activists and the Israeli military that left at least 10 dead.

Neish, 53, joined pro-Palestinian activists aboard the ship Challenger II, one of six vessels on a mission to carry humanitarian relief to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Foreign Affairs said no Canadians were believed to be injured in yesterday morning’s raid, but that provided little comfort to those closest to Neish.

His friend Zoe Blunt said Neish, a member of the Free Gaza Movement, became an activist after he was shot by a neighbour in a random, unprovoked attack but she declined to provide further details, calling it a personal matter.

“He’s had some transformative experiences,” she said. “He’s witnessed a great deal of brutality against innocent civilians in his life, here at home and abroad.