Perdana Global Peace Organisation

Israeli forces board the Rachel Corrie

In News and Updates on June 5, 2010 at 11:47 am

Israeli forces have boarded the Gaza-bound aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie and are taking it to Ashdod port in Israel.

Navy personnel entered the cargo ship from the sea. The operation took only a few minutes, Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich said. No one was reported hurt.

“The ship has been boarded and there was full compliance from the crew and passengers on board,” he said.

The move, also confirmed by the Irish department of foreign affairs, came after Israel warned that its troops would enter the vessel unless it changed course to head away from Gaza.

The Irish-Malaysian ship the Rachel Corrie is one of the last remaining ships on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

It was still attempting to reach the blockaded territory despite the deadly commando attack by Israeli troops earlier in the week, and has rejected calls for it to unload its cargo in Israel.

Nine people died and hundreds of activists were seized and taken to Israel when troops stormed a flotilla of nine ships on Monday morning.

The Irish foreign affairs minister, Micheal Martin, earlier said he fully accepted the organisers’ decision to continue with their mission.

“If, as is their stated intention, the Israeli government intercepts the Rachel Corrie, the government demands that it demonstrate every restraint,” he warned.

“Those on board the Rachel Corrie have made clear their peaceful intentions and have stated that they will offer no resistance to Israeli forces.

“Based on these assurances, there can be no justification for the use of force against any person on board the Rachel Corrie.”

According to the Free Gaza movement, the Rachel Corrie had been tailed by three Israeli naval boats around 35 miles off the coast of Gaza.

Speaking last night, Derek Graham, first mate on the Rachel Corrie, said: “We are nervous, and people have started to get a little bit more anxious.

“But all we want to do is bring our aid in, unload it and come back out. We want to show the Palestinians that they can get in and out of their own country.”

Passengers issued a defiant message through the Free Gaza website: “Communication is difficult and sometimes impossible, and there are many rumours out there started by Israeli authorities, but there is no way we are going to Ashdod,” they said in a joint statement. “We are, for sure, on our way to Gaza.”

The Rachel Corrie, named after a 23-year-old American killed in Gaza in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer, fell behind the original fleet after mechanical problems. Those aboard suspect it may have been sabotaged.

Communicating with those on board, among whom is the Nobel peace prize laureate Máiread Maguire, has proved difficult.

“They want to get in during daylight tomorrow,” said Martin O’Quigley of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. “They don’t want to approach the exclusion zone in darkness.”

Maguire said the activists were determined to press on, but would offer no resistance should they be boarded.

“We will sit down,” she told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from the ship. “They will probably arrest us … but there will be no resistance.”

The White House has said Israel’s blockade of Gaza is unsustainable but urged the Rachel Corrie to sail to Ashdod.

“The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations,” Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the US national security council, said in a statement.

“In the interest of the safety of all involved, and the safe transmission of assistance to the people of Gaza, we strongly encourage those on board the Rachel Corrie and other vessels to sail to Ashdod to deliver their materials to Gaza.”

The Rachel Corrie is carrying 11 passengers, including the Scottish Captain Eric Harcis.

In addition to six British and Irish citizens on the ship, there are six Malaysians, including an MP, and a team of journalists, organisers said. Ram Karthigasu, a spokesman for the Malaysian travellers, said they were “determined” to continue the journey towards Gaza.

The ship is carrying school supplies, printing paper, children’s shoes, wheelchairs, sports equipment and fire extinguishers. Its load was checked by the Irish government before it sailed, according to organisers.

Israel bars cement and other building materials from entering Gaza, saying they are often used for building tunnels to smuggle in weapons and explosives.


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