Gaza flotilla interception 'violent and dangerous'

The interception of an Irish ship trying to break Israel's naval blockade on Gaza was violent and dangerous, activists have claimed.

Two members of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign maintain the MV Saoirse almost sank while it was boarded by the Israeli navy.

Socialist MEP Paul Murphy and co-ordinator Dr Fintan Lane, who are among 14 Irish nationals awaiting deportation from Israel, made telephone calls to supporters this afternoon.

Dr Lane said the takeover of the MV Saoirse took about three hours, with Israeli forces surrounding them and the MV Tahrir, also on the humanitarian mission, before high-pressure hoses were turned on passengers.

Guns were also pointed at them through windows before they were finally taken away in a violent manner, he claimed.

"I was hosed down the stairs of the boat," Dr Lane said.

"Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire.

"The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sank.

"The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life."

The Saoirse and Tahrir were towed to the port of Ashdod by Israeli military, which has described the incident as a peaceful takeover.

Mr Murphy told his supporters people on board were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings.

"In Givon prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time," he claimed in a statement.

"We have been given no timeframe as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial."

Mr Murphy called on the Irish Government to demand their immediate release.

"We remain defiant and unabashed at our mission, which again has served to expose the criminal nature of the Israeli state in its blockading of Gaza from those of us who wish to provide aid in order to alleviate the poverty and suffering the people there endure," he added.

Claudia Saba, campaign spokesperson who received the call from Dr Lane, said his account contradicts the Israeli narrative that it took every precaution to ensure the safety of the activists on board the vessels.

"It is a small miracle that no-one was seriously injured during this obviously very violent boarding of the Freedom Waves boats," she added.

Opposition leader Micheál Martin demanded the immediate release of the passengers.

The former Foreign Affairs Minister criticised Israel's actions and saluted those who undertook the humanitarian mission to Gaza and their efforts to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people.

"When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs, I visited Gaza and witnessed first-hand the extraordinary conditions people are having to endure," said Mr Martin, the Fianna Fail leader.

"Israel's actions in boarding the vessel and detaining citizens are totally unacceptable. I am calling for the immediate release of those detained and a swift and safe journey back home."

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore last night said he was closely monitoring the detention of 14 Irish nationals, who are receiving consular assistance, and understood they were in good health.

Campaigners have demanded the Irish Government to suspend Israel from the Euromed Agreement, end all arms trade with Israel and take steps to ensure no Irish state-funded institution engages in any cultural, academic, or economic co-operation with the state of Israel or its associated institutions.

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