Former US ambassador on Gaza aid ship

A former US ambassador aboard a Gaza aid ship seized by Israeli commandos is on his way home.

Meanwhile, seven Irish citizens are still being detained in Israel following the raid on the main flotilla yesterday and an Irish ship that was originally part of the flotilla attacked by Israel yesterday is set to approach Gaza today.

The Israeli navy has said this morning that it is ready to stop the MV Rachel Corrie, and expects an easy takeover of the ship.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin yesterday called for Israel to exercise restraint in dealing with the vessel.

Edward Peck, 81, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, a Washington suburb, was among activists in the flotilla trying to get humanitarian aid to Gaza, his wife Ann said.

She said she received a brief email from Israel’s foreign ministry yesterday informing her that her husband was fine and was heading home.

Mrs Peck said she had not been able to talk to her husband, a former US ambassador to Mauritania, since the raid.

“Knowing him, I doubt there are regrets,” she said. “I think he was really hopeful of it making a difference.”

Mr Peck was in the flotilla with a group from the Free Palestine Movement. On its website, the group says its mission “is to challenge Israeli policies and actions that deny Palestinians their human rights, and in particular the right of unfettered access to all of Palestine”.

The US-based Free Palestine Movement said it believed four other members of the group were detained, but it had no confirmation.

Mr Peck’s government positions included serving as deputy director of Ronald Reagan’s White House task force on terrorism. He has a consulting firm, Foreign Services International.

Retired TV commercial producer David Schermerhorn of Orcas Island, Washington state, was also on the flotilla as an activist with the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement.

His daughter Kate Schermerhorn said US embassy officials told her that the 80-year-old was taken into custody by Israeli officials and was unharmed.

Jean Meadors, wife of Joe Meadors, 63, of Corpus Christi, Texas, a Navy veteran also on board a seized ship, said she believed he was safe, “but I’d like to hear that from him”.

Mr Meadors was serving on the US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty that was attacked by Israeli forces in 1967, killing 34 crew members.

“He hasn’t had much luck with the Israelis,” Mrs Meadors said.

A one-year-old baby on board an aid ship has returned to Turkey unharmed with his mother.

Kaan Turker Cetin was on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, which was carrying activists. His father, Ekrem Cetin, is the ship’s engineer.

His mother, Nilufer Cetin, said today that she agreed to be extradited after being warned that jail conditions would be “too harsh” for the baby.

She said the two were hiding in their cabin’s bathroom during the raid.

Turkey said it is sending three planes to carry back its citizens.

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