Irish Republican News · July 3, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Israel accused of ‘lethal’ attack on Irish aid ship

The Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, has been covertly attacked in a Turkish port as it prepared to sail to Gaza as part of an international aid mission.

Fintan Lane, the national co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza organisation, said on Thursday that the ship would not be able to sail as it had been “dangerously sabotaged”, according to the organising campaign.

The flotilla of international boats and ships aims to bring humanitarian aid to the self-ruled Palestinian territory of Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

Mr Lane said that the damage to the ship was discovered on Monday night when the captain noticed that there was something wrong. Divers found that a piece was missing from one of the propeller shafts.

Another Swedish ship due to link up with the planned flotilla suffered a similar attack. The main flotilla group is currently prevented from leaving Greek territorial waters under an unexplained edict of the Greek government.

Mr Lane accusing the Israeli government of launching the potentially lethal attack on the MV Saoirse [Freedom] in the Turkish port of Gocek.

“This was the type of sabotage that endangered human life,” Mr Lane said.

“They put divers under the boat who cut a piece out of the propeller shaft. That means that the damage would have happened gradually and what would have happened eventually is that the propeller would have come up through the bottom of the boat, caused a flood in the engine room and would have caused the boat to sink.”

He described it as a “violent attack” on the lives of those aboard. Pictures and videos detailing the damage appeared to confirm that cutting tools had been used against the ship.

Mr Lane said that, due to the extent of the damage, the MV Saoirse would not be in a position to sail, adding that just six of the 20-plus crew who had been due to set sail would be able to take part in the flotilla by joining an Italian-based vessel.

Mr Lane said the damage to the ship was almost identical to that caused to the Swedish ship the Juliano, which organisers also believe was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus by “Israeli divers”.

Israel has labelled the flotilla as a “dangerous provocation”, and had warned that it will act against any ships which attempt to break their naval blockade of the Palestinian occupied Gaza Strip.

In May 2010, Israel attacked a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, and shot dead nine human rights activists.

It has denied any involvement in the damage to the MV Saoirse.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for the Dublin government to urgently raise the matter with the Israeli authorities and to ask the Turkish authorities to carry out a full and thorough investigation into what occurred.

“The Israeli government’s antipathy toward the international aid flotilla to Gaza was most evident in the disgraceful accusation from the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that those taking part in the flotilla were ‘terror activists, seeking to create provocation and looking for blood.’

“The fact that another of the ships in the flotilla apparently suffered the same damage while in port in Greece strongly suggests dirty tricks by Israeli elements.

“The Irish government has a responsibility to protect Irish citizens abroad and must demand answers from the Israeli government on this matter.

“I would also urge the government to ask the Turkish authorities to carry out a full and thorough investigation into what has occurred.”

The Sinn Féin leader also commended the courage and dedication of the crew and international observers who were due to sail on the MV Saoirse.

“Despite the Israeli assault last year on the previous flotilla in which nine aid workers were killed and the threats from official Israeli sources, they have refused to be intimidated and are determined to highlight the illegal and inhumane siege by Israel of Gaza.”

Other members of the Dublin parliament have said the Israeli ambassador, Boaz Modai, should be “called in” by the government to explain the damage.

Richard Boyd Barrett of the United Left Alliance described the sabotage as an “absolute outrage”, while his colleague Joe Higgins said the government should make an international issue of the attack.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News