Rachel Corrie to attempt aid delivery
Rachel Corrie to attempt aid delivery

The Irish aid cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, is poised to make a fresh attempt to reach Israeli-blockaded Gaza despite Monday’s deadly attack by commandoes against the humanitarian mission, in which at least nine activists died.

The ship has assumed a holding position in the eastern Mediterranean, as it waited for Challenger II, another boat of the flotilla which also suffered a delay in the passage from Cyprus.

The two vessels, their crews and passengers are undeterred by the Israeli commando operation which climaxed in a bloody massacre and the abduction of almost 700 passengers from six ships in international waters.

The Rachel Corrie, which began its voyage in Ireland, was named after a young US woman killed by an Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian homes in Gaza.

Among those on board are Nobel Prize laureate Mairead Maguire and former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday.

“The killings in international waters took our breath away, but the shock wore off and after some discussion on board it made us more determined to continue,” Mr Halliday said yesterday.

Mayo electrician Derek Graham, a fellow crewman and a member of the Free Gaza Movement, said that “if this aid is not delivered, then Monday’s deaths will have been in vain”.

Mr Halliday emphasised the aim was not provocation but getting aid cargo into Gaza.

“We are calling on the UN to inspect the cargo and escort us into Gaza, and to send a UN representative to sail on board before they enter the exclusion zone,” Mr Halliday said.

“We all remain in good spirits, and we want to thank everyone all over the world for all their support.”

While preparations were being made for the second attempt, released abductees began to speak of the Israeli raid. One Irish human rights activist seized by Israeli authorities, Dr Fintan Lane, revealed he was assaulted in custody while three others were severely beaten. He described how he feared for his life when the elite Israeli unit parachuted onto their aid ship.

He said dozens are still missing, including Libyan-Irishman Isam Bin Ali. “No one I’ve spoken to knows where these people are, it is very worrying,” he added.

ANother Irishman, Fiachra O Luain, was injured after being assaulted by Israeli guards in a base where about 400 abductees were being held near Tel Aviv. He was beaten so badly that he was taken to hospital, Dr Lane said.

Al Mahdi Al Harati, a father-of-four originally from Libya, was also stretchered away after suffering a diabetes-related seizure.

Dr Lane said Ken O’Keefe, an Irish-American passenger, was beaten by security officials before boarding an aircraft.

“His injuries were so bad that he had to be hospitalised in Tel Aviv. The Israelis are claiming this delay in his repatriation is for technical reasons, yet another Israeli lie,” he added.

The group were among hundreds of people abducted in the Israel operation and released under massive international pressure.

Dr Lane also described how Israeli commandos physically attacked peaceful campaigners on board his vessel, the MV Challenger I, on Monday morning.

“Fiachra was dragged around the ground and I had a gun pointed in my face by a screaming commando,” he continued. “His mania was so intense that I genuinely feared for my life. Others received beatings.

“When they finally took over our ship, and forced us to dock in Ashdod, we refused to disembark.”

Dr Lane said activists were forcibly removed from the boat and brought to interrogation rooms in the port, where he refused to hand over his passport.

“I was then physically assaulted, my arms were painfully twisted behind my back for prolonged periods and my passport taken,” he added.

“In prison I was told about events on the Mavi Marmara, people being shot, left to bleed to death, beaten and bitten by dogs. By all accounts it sounded like it was hell on that boat.”

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called on the Dublin government to actively support efforts to ensure that the Rachel Corrie is allowed to sail uninhibited into Gaza and unload its aid cargo.

“The Israeli government have attempted to spin the story that the aid from the humanitarian ships should be docked in Israel and that the Israeli government would then deliver it to Gaza,” he said.

“The fact is that much of the humanitarian cargo aboard the Rachel Corrie and the other ships, including cement for the reconstruction effort in Gaza, are prohibited under the Israeli blockade and would not reach those in need in Gaza. That is why the flotilla was put together in the first place.

“Given the outrageous Israeli aggression to the first ships and their crews in the convoy the world’s eyes will now be on how the Irish vessel is treated. The Irish government need to send out a clear signal that they are standing firmly with the crew of this Irish registered vessel and take strong measures to ensure that the Israeli military back off and allow the Rachel Corrie to sail uninhibited into Gaza and unload its cargo of aid.”

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has called a mass demonstration at 2pm on Saturday against the killings and in support of the Rachel Corrie.

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