Gaza aid ship intercepted by Israeli navy

One of the last ships on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy today.

One of the last ships on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy today.

Irish-Malaysian ship MV Rachel Corrie was attempting to reach the blockaded territory despite the deadly commando attack by Israeli troops earlier in the week.

The crew of the ship had rejected a deal to unload its cargo in Israel and accompany it across the border.

An Israeli military spokeswoman later denied reports that the ship had been taken over or intercepted.

Last night the White House urged the activists to comply with Israeli requests to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod for safety reasons.

But foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin said he fully accepted their decision to continue with their mission.

“If, as is their stated intention, the Israeli government intercepts the Rachel Corrie, the Government demands that it demonstrate every restraint,” Mr Martin warned.

“Those on board the Rachel Corrie have made clear their peaceful intentions and have stated that they will offer no resistance to Israeli forces.

“Based on these assurances, there can be no justification for the use of force against any person on board the Rachel Corrie.”

Nine people were left dead and hundreds of activists seized and taken to Israel when troops stormed a flotilla of nine ships on Monday morning.

According to the Free Gaza movement, the Rachel Corrie was being tailed by three Israeli naval boats around 35 miles off the coast of Gaza. But the group said Israeli troops had not attempted to board the ship.

Speaking last night, Derek Graham, first mate on the Rachel Corrie, said: “We are nervous and people have started to get a little bit more anxious.

“But all we want to do is bring our aid in, unload it and come back out. We want to show the Palestinians that they can get in and out of their own country.”

Eleven people are on board the vessel which is carrying 1,000 tonnes of building, educational and healthcare supplies.

Irish activists include former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire, Mr Graham, who has been on four of the five voyages which docked in Gaza, and his wife Jenny, and Dundalk film-maker Fiona Thompson.

Five Malaysians are also on the vessel, captained by Eric Harcis from Scotland.

Mrs Graham said the vessel is continuing at a steady pace.

“We will have no part in a deal that involves us legitimising the siege of Gaza,” she said.

“We intend to continue on our mission to deliver our cargo of aid and supplies to the people of Gaza. This has always been our intention.”

Meanwhile thousands of people are expected to attend a mass demonstration in Dublin called by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

Campaigners and activists already expelled from Israel will assemble at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance, where there will be a wreath-laying ceremony.

Protesters will then march to the Department of Foreign Affairs on St Stephen’s Green.

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