Israeli troops board Rachel Corrie aid ship to Gaza UPDATED

Israeli forces intercepted and were following an Irish-owned ship bound for Gaza, following bloody army raids on Turkish-led aid flotilla, a spokeswoman said.

Israeli troops board Rachel Corrie aid ship to Gaza UPDATED

 

Israeli forces seized an Irish-owned ship bound for Gaza on Saturday, boarding the Rachel Corrie close to the Gaza shore near the Mediterranean, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

"The ship has been boarded and there was full compliance from the crew and passengers on board," the spokeswoman said.

"This has been another brazen act of Israeli piracy on the High Seas," said Kevin Squires, national coordinator of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Dublin, one of whose members was aboard the boat named after a pro-Palestinian activist killed in Gaza in 2003.

Autopsy results found 30 bullets in the bodies of the activists killed this week, a British newspaper reported.

They were all Turks, including one with U.S. citizenship. Ankara's already strained ties with Israel, once an ally, are at an all-time low.

"They are being followed," Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza group said by telephone. She said earlier that the Rachel Corrie was some 55 km (35 miles) west of Gaza in the Mediterranean.

Al Jazeera television quoted a journalist aboard the vessel saying: "We can see some Israeli ships a little away from us.

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"They are following us. There has been no contact."

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she had no information.

Israel had said it would not let the ship through, five days after a convoy of six was halted, including a Turkish ship on which 9 men were killed by Israeli commandos who stormed aboard.

Israel has said it would accept the goods aboard the Rachel Corrie at its port of Ashdod, but would not allow activists to reach blockaded Gaza.

"They are not going into Ashdod," Berlin said, adding that only if the Israeli navy seized the ship would that happen.

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The vessel is named after an American pro-Palestinian activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003.

Among those aboard the Rachel Corrie, campaigners said, were Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland and Denis Halliday, an Irish former senior official at the the United Nations.

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Gazans live under heavy Israel siege for a long time and Egypt still insists on not to opening the only Gaza border crossing in a move condemned by Muslims around the world in protests, leaving Gazans desperate to digging tunnels underground and risking their lives.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin urged Israel to show restraint, saying "the Rachel Corrie should be allowed to proceed to Gaza and to unload its humanitarian cargo".

"We are not afraid," Maguire told Ireland's RTE state radio by satellite phone from aboard the aid-laden ship on Friday.

"We started out to deliver this cargo to the people of Gaza and to break the siege of Gaza, that is what we want to do," the 66-year-old said as the vessel steamed towards the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.

The boat was just hours from Gaza but the 15 aboard -- Irish and Malaysian activists, four Indonesian crew and a Scottish captain -- did not intend to leave international waters and run the Israeli gauntlet until after daybreak Saturday, organisers said.

"All on board on the ship were in good spirits, but very anxious as to the actions the Israelis might take," the organisers said late Friday after contacting the ship.

Agencies

Last Mod: 05 Haziran 2010, 16:52
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