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

Breaking: Gaza-Bound Flotilla Surrounded by Israeli Navy


BOATS EN ROUTE TO GAZA SURROUNDED BY ISRAELI WARSHIPS

Nov. 4, 2011 - At 7:43 am ET ground support crews lost contact with two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada, carrying 27 civilian passengers, medical supplies and letters of support for the people of Gaza.

At 7:30 am the Tahrir was interrogated, via radio, by the Israeli Navy. The ships were approximately 48 nautical miles off the coastline, well into international waters. Asked by the Israeli Navy for their destination, Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef replied, "The conscience of humanity." When they repeated the question, asking for final destination, Lotayef said, "The betterment of mankind."

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since June 2006. Numerous international organizations, including committees of the United Nations, have concluded the blockade is in violation of international law.


For more info

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


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

TWO BOATS WITH PASSENGERS FROM 5 COUNTRIES HAVE SET SAIL TO GAZA

Organizers say: "It is time to lift the siege of Gaza." 

The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, initiating the "Freedom Wave to Gaza."

The boats have embarked from Turkey and are on the Mediterranean Sea. In all, the 2 boats carry 27 passengers from Canada, Ireland, U.S., Palestine, and Australia. Kit Kittredge, on board the Tahrir, was previously a passenger on the American ship, The Audacity of Hope, which attempted passage to Gaza last July.

Kittredge says, "The only obstacles in our way are Israel's military and the complicity of the Obama administration but in our sails is the wind of worldwide public opinion which has turned against the illegal blockade."

Ann Wright retired US army Colonel and former US Diplomat says, "We carry inspiration from the Arab Spring and the worldwide "Occupy" movements that are demanding freedom and justice. Where governments fail, civil society must act. As Americans we are fed up with our government's unquestioning support of Israel no matter how violent, illegal and oppressive its actions. We will not stand by and watch $30 billion of our tax money committed to buying Israel weaponry used to carry out this illegal occupation of Palestine including the blockade of Gaza."

Jane Hirschmann added, "Our sailing coincides with UN agency UNESCO's recognition of Palestine as a member state, defying US threats to cut off $80 million of US funding in retaliation. This shows the growing strength of opposition by the international community to U.S. and Israeli policies in Palestine. We call on the international community to go further and take effective action to lift the siege of Gaza." Hirschmann was one of the organizers this past summer of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, which is still captive in Greece.

Contact:
In New York: Felice Gelman, 917-912-2597, 917 679 8343
At sea: phone numbers will be released when you call the above press contact
Website: http://ustogaza.org/
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