Friday, November 04, 2011

Israeli Navy Seizes Ships Bound For Gaza, Detains Passengers

New York, NY 11/4/11 - Canadian and Irish ships, the Tahrir and the Saoirse, sailing with Freedom Waves to Gaza have been illegally boarded by the Israeli military in international waters, about 50 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza, around 9:30 am EDT. The IDF spokesperson confirmed that the vessels were taken to the port of Ashdod, and the passengers were taken into custody by the Israeli police. Although the IDF spokesperson claimed they took "every precaution to ensure the safety of the activists," Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after the vessels were approached by Israeli warships earlier this morning.

U.S. Coordinator Jane Hirschmann commented, "Had the passengers been permitted to proceed to Gaza rather than being stopped on the high seas by armed force, there would have been no threat to their safety. The IDF's statement is like the mugger promising to escort his victim home safely."
The Canadian boat Tahrir confirmed that the Israeli navy had contacted them asking for their destination at around 7 a.m. EDT to which Ehab Lotayef, an activist on board the ship, replied 'The conscience of humanity'. When the Israelis again demanded to know the destination of the ship Lotayef replied; 'The betterment of mankind'.

Ann Wright, one of the organizers of the Freedom Flotilla that attempted to sail to Gaza in June, said "It's a little hard to imagine how 27 unarmed civilians on two small boats carrying medicine and letters threaten Israel's security. Israel is simply determined to maintain its policy of collective punishment against the 1.6 million civilians in Gaza. This is a crime against humanity and violation of international law. Despite Israel's consistent use of military force against nonviolent protests and demonstrations, activists around the world will continue to challenge the occupation of Palestine and the blockade and Gaza."

Passengers on the boats are citizens of Canada, Ireland, the US, Australia, and Palestine. The US citizen on the Tahrir is Kit Kittredge of Quilcene, Washington. She is a massage therapist and emergency medical technician.

For more info contact:
In New York: Felice Gelman, (917)-912-2597
Jane Hirschman, 917-679-8343, 212-222-6721
In Turkey (with ground crew): Medea Benjamin, +90 531 888 8927
@palwaves and @usboattogaza

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