FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has accused Israel of kidnapping up to eight Irish citizens and breaking international law by refusing diplomats access to them.
Six confirmed Irish passport holders were threatened with internment at the Be’er Sheva detention camp unless they signed deportation agreements with Israeli. They were aboard the aid flotilla stormed by Israeli commandos which left at least nine people dead.
A seventh Irishman, Shane Dillon, was allowed fly back to Ireland after consenting to be deported by Israeli authorities. Later reports said an eighth unknown citizen had also been captured.
It is believed two of the detainees, Dr Fintan Lane and Fiachra O Luain, refused to sign the forms and are due in court in the next two days.
Monaghan born, Australian-based journalist Paul McGeough was also held. He maintained contact with his newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, as the troops approached the ships.
Mr Martin said those who sailed with the flotilla were people of deep conviction and had not entered Israel illegally.
He said it was in contravention of the Geneva Convention to take foreigners from international waters and hold them against their will at the port city of Ashdod.
“We have called for the unconditional release of Irish citizens currently detained in Ashdod,” Mr Martin said.
“These did not enter Israel illegally, they were plucked out of international waters and brought to Ashdod. They don’t need to sign any documents as far as we are concerned.”
Throughout yesterday, Irish diplomats were denied access to the detainees. The minister said this was unacceptable and demanded the Israeli government lift restrictions. Two of the Irish citizens also hold Libyan passports. Another is also understood to be dual passport holder.
Diplomats searched Israeli hospitals but could find no evidence that Irish citizens were among the injured.
Mr Martin asked the international community to take a stand. He said Israel’s necessity could not be allowed become a new legal code.
He hauled in Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony, to his office in Iveagh House to seek assurances on the safety of Irish citizens.
He also reserved his options on whether to expel the Israeli ambassador. “I am not ruling anything in or out,” he said.
As he left the meeting, Dr Evrony refused to guarantee the safe passage of the only Irish registered vessel in the flotilla which had still to be confronted.
He said he would convey Mr Martin’s views to his government, but any vessel which sought to enter Gaza would be stopped.
The vessel, the Rachel Corrie, has five Irish activists on board – Dennis Halliday, Fiona Thompson, Derek Graham, Jenny Graham and Máiréad Maguire. It lagged behind the flotilla after suffering a propeller problem and is not due to reach Israeli waters until today.
Mr Martin and Dr Evrony met at the same time as a crisis summit of the United Nations security council convened in New York.
At the same time, protesters began their march to the Israeli embassy in Dublin.
And in Brussels, Irish diplomats also gathered with colleagues to discuss the European Union’s response to Israel’s attack of the flotilla.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved