Gaza Flotilla 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
about 5:50 am on Saturday, the first reports came in over Twitter that
the 'Rachel Corrie' had been
boarded close to Gaza. Earlier the activists reported that their radar
had been jammed, however their Twitter accounts continued
The activists reported that three boats were
following them for about twenty minutes and then that they had been
The passengers are said to be under arrest.
A couple of hours before the ship was seized, a
Malaysian NGO which was co-sponsoring the ship, "Perdana Global Peace
Organization" stated on its website that the ship's
passengers had agreed to let an international force search the ship,
before it proceeded to Gaza. The statement said that, while the
activists rejected Israel's right to blockade Gaza, the activists
"request and invite for an independent international body, preferably
inspectors from the the United Nations to board the ship and do the
necessary to certify as to the nature of the cargo on board."
The Malaysian NGO
described the ship as a joint Irish-Malaysian effort. The organization's
website describes its mission as to "oppose war and champion peace and
Before the ship made its offer, Irish Foreign Minister, Dr. Michael Martin reached an agreement
with Israel, whereby the Rachel
Corrie would proceed to Ashdod where its contents would be
unloaded and then shipped to Gaza under observation of representatives of the
activists, the UN and the Irish government. The activists rejected
this offer, insisting on breaking the
Israeli blockade. They did however give assurances that they
would not resist the IDF, should it decide to board the ship. The White House later expressed support for the agreement and called on the ship to dock at Ashdod.
raids, closes NGO offices
into harm's way
morning, nine activists were killed during an IDF sea raid of the Free
Gaza Movement's flotilla of six ships which had wanted to reach the Gaza
cabinet agreed that Israel must maintain the naval blockade of Gaza so
that it could prevent Iran and terrorists groups such as Hizbullah from
sending weapons to Hamas.
As the navy prepared to intercept
the ship, Netanyahu instructed it not to harm the activists.
Foreign Ministry said it hoped the activists on board would reconsider
"We have no desire for a confrontation," said Spokesman
Gal. "We have no desire to board the ship. If the ship decides to sail
the port of Ashdod, then we will ensure its safe arrival and will not
board it," he said.
"Israel is prepared to receive the ship and
to offload its contents. After an inspection to ensure that no weapons
and war materials are on board, we are prepared to deliver all of the
goods to Gaza," Gal said.
"Representative of the people on board
and relevant NGOs are welcome to accompany the goods to the crossings,"
Gaza co-founder: We won't cede to Israel's request
Berlin, a co-founder of the Free Gaza movement, said those on board the
ship had no intention of ceding to Israel's request. Nor, she said,
were they impressed by Netanyahu's statements Thursday to UN Middle East
envoy Tony Blair, in which he promised to increase the amount and
variety of goods which could enter Gaza by land.
"We do not trust
Israel anymore," said Berlin.
"Our mission is to break the
blockade of Gaza," she told The Jerusalem Post.
Unlike the six
ship flotilla which had close to 700 people, the Rachel
she said, had only 20 people on board. These people are all non-violent,
The Foreign Ministry in Ireland said it had been in
touch with the Israeli government regarding the rights of its citizens
on board the ship, but did not elaborate.
In Washington, the
State Department said US officials had been in touch with "multiple"
countries, including the Israeli and Irish governments, about this latest
effort to reach Gaza by boat.
"Everyone wants to avoid a
repetition of [Monday's] tragic incident," spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
He added that the US had been in contact numerous times with Israeli
authorities in recent weeks. "We urged caution and restraint," he said.
condemnation continued Friday, with protests in Syria, Greece, Bahrain
and Malaysia, where some demonstrators burned Israeli flags and carried
mock coffins. In Norway, the military canceled a seminar scheduled for
later this month because an Israeli army officer was to have lectured.
laureate, former UN assistant head on board ship
Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from
entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against
Gaza's Hamas rulers in January 2009.
Israeli claims that went it intercepted Monday's flotilla of ships
activists on one of them, the Marmara, ambushed the soldiers after they
descended onto the board from helicopters. The military and Turkish TV
have released videotape that backs up that claim. Returning activists
admitted fighting with the Israeli commandos but insisted their actions
were in self-defense because the ships were being boarded in
international waters by a military force.
The Marmara, which was carrying hundreds of
sponsored by an Islamic aid group from Turkey, the Foundation for Human
Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief. Israel outlawed the group,
known by its Turkish acronym IHH, in 2008 because of alleged ties to
The Rachel Corrie is owned by the Free Gaza
It set sail from Ireland. It is flying a Cambodian flag and is funded
by money raised by a former prime minister of Malaysia. Among the
passengers are two well known Irish citizens, Nobel Peace
Laureate Mairead Maguire and Denis Halliday, a former UN assistant
secretary-general. Also on board are Malaysian journalists, a member of
its parliament and
a former political secretary.
AP contributed to this report.