PAMELA NEWENHAM and MARY FITZGERALD, The Irish Times, June 3, 2010
An Irish-owned boat laden with humanitarian supplies is continuing its journey towards Gaza despite Israel’s insistence it will not allow any vessel break its blockade on the territory.
The MV Rachel Corrie , which has five Irish citizens aboard, including Nobel peace laureate Mairéad Corrigan-Maguire and former UN official Denis Halliday, is currently in Libyan waters some 640 km (400 miles) from Gaza.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign tonight dismissed some reports that the boat was due to dock in Turkey and insisted it intends to maintain course with no stops until it reaches the Gazan port.
The boat, which is captained by Eric Harcis, is travelling at approximately 402 kms (250 miles) a day and expects to reach Gaza by Saturday. Film-maker Fiona Thompson from Dundalk and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham from Co Mayo are also on board.
“I spoke to Derek and he said they were going full throttle towards Gaza,” Freda Hughes from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said today. “Originally the boat was lagging behind the rest of the flotilla, now it looks like the one surviving member that might get to Gaza."
Ms Hughes said the activists would not accede to an Israeli request unloading the ship’s cargo at Ashdod port for transport to Gaza was not a deal the activists would strike with Israel, as the ship is carrying banned building materials including cement which would not be delivered.
“It’s bringing aid to Gaza that’s not allowed such as medical equipment and construction materials. If it docks in Ashdod, none of this aid will reach Gaza”.
Speaking from the ship today, Dennis Halliday said: “We want to emphasise that our aim is not provocation but getting our aid cargo into Gaza”.
We are calling on the UN to inspect the cargo and escort us into Gaza, he said, adding “we all remain in good spirits”.
Irish officials have been maintaining close contact with the 1,200-ton boat which was supposed to join the aid flotilla raided by Israeli commandos on Monday but was delayed due to mechanical problems.
“We have continued to make it clear to the Israeli government . . . that we want maximum restraint and we do not want any interception in international waters,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said. “It has been a terrible week in terms of the loss of life and there is now an obligation on all involved to reduce tension . . . It is extremely important that we do not have a repeat of what happened earlier this week.”
Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, has said Israel does not expect any confrontation or violence when the MV Rachel Corrie approaches the exclusion zone.
The storming of the six-ship flotilla by Israeli commandos on Monday resulted in the deaths of nine activists and prompted renewed international criticism of Israel’s blockade.