Israeli crimes continue

Israel targeted an Irish aid ship heading for Gaza last week despite continuing outrage over the bloody assault on the main humanitarian relief flotilla, which left nine aid workers dead and stunned international public opinion.

The Rachel Corrie was sailing in international waters - but that didn’t stop Israeli forces from seizing it and detaining those on board. The boat was carrying humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, for the besieged Gaza enclave.

Those on board included former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday. He resigned from this position in 1998 to protest at the terrible impact of sanctions on Iraq’s people.

Derek Graham was the ship’s captain. Israel deported him and his wife Jenny back to Ireland on Monday of this week.

“They shouted at me to get face down on the floor, hands on the back of your head,” he said. “The ship was taken in international waters--we didn’t violate Israeli waters, Israeli laws or maritime laws.”

Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire was also on the boat. “Our whole purpose was to break the siege of Gaza and bring humanitarian aid,” she said.

“When we were kidnapped by the Israeli navy we were very sad, for the people that have lost their lives and the people of Gaza. We had lifted their hopes and then they were dashed--but we will be back.”

The boat was named after pro-Palestinian activist and US citizen Rachel Corrie. An Israeli bulldozer crushed her to death in Gaza in 2003.

Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness has said that the raid on the ship was “completely unjustified and unacceptable use of force”.

“They know the Rachel Corrie and her cargo presents no threat to Israel. The human rights activists onboard the boat had made it clear they had no issue with UN officials checking the cargo before they proceeded to Gaza.

“The Rachel Corrie should have been allowed to proceed to Gaza without Israeli aggression. The decision of the Israeli government to board the Rachel Corrie and divert her away from Gaza is a completely unjustified and unacceptable use of force. This is an attack on an Irish flagged vessel and it demands a strong response by the Irish government.”

Meanwhile, those detained from the flotilla of boats forced to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod have been giving an account of the massacre which resulted from a raid by Israeli commandoes last month.

On Turkish survivor, Babu Adam Zanghar, spoke at a rally outside the Israeli embassy in London last Saturday. He described the scene as the commandoes fought to take control of the ship: “The captain had a one year old son on board. The soldiers held a gun to the boy’s head, and said they would shoot him if the captain did not do as they said.

“I saw a man walk out onto the deck with his hands on his head--moments later he was shot dead by the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces].

“We were handcuffed from 7am to 10pm.

“They have no respect for anybody. They took all of our personal belongings, electrical equipment and our documents. When our luggage was returned to us in Turkey it was empty.

“They made us sign documents saying we admitted to committing crimes. But what laws did we break? Israel broke international law by attacking us in international waters.

“We were taken to Israel against our will. They said they would hold us indefinitely if we didn’t sign.

“But we are not afraid and we will not be deterred.”

Theresa McDermott, an aid worker, said, “We got a taste of how the Palestinians are treated on a daily basis. The Israelis treat them all as less than human.

“The Israeli soldiers boarded my ship [the Challenger 1] at 4am on Monday 31 May.

“I had a gun pointed at my head when I tried to help two other aid workers who were being beaten up.

“Stun guns were discharged at point blank range into the faces of women.

“A photographer was tasered by the IDF because she was recording their violence.

“The injured were forced to walk unaided through passport control, some carrying drips and drainage bags, with dirty dressings that obviously hadn’t been changed in days.”

* The 26 County Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin says he intends to act “very shortly” over the use of forged Irish passports in the assassination of a Palestinian military commander last January.

Minister Martin said he wants to make sure the matter does not become confused with the issues arising from the military assault on the Gaza flotilla.

On that matter, he commented that he is hopeful the cargo of the MV Rachel Corrie, including cement, could yet reach Gaza and be allowed to enter the territory.

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