The Irish aid ship blocked from delivering relief supplies to Gaza has arrived in Israel, campaigners confirmed tonight.
The 11 passengers from Ireland and Malaysia on the MV Rachel Corrie cargo ship could be deported this evening from the port town of Ashdod after the ship was taken over by Israeli forces, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) added.
The military seized the 1,200-tonne boat from the sea. No resistance was encountered.
The IPSC said: “No contact has yet been made with the kidnapped passengers but we have learned that they have been taken to Holon detention centre where they could be deported as early as tonight.”
The seemingly bloodless action contrasted with a violent confrontation at sea earlier this week when Israeli forces blocked a Turkish aid vessel trying to reach the territory.
At the time, Israeli commandos descended from helicopters and a clash with passengers left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.
The ship – named for an American college student crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting against Israeli house demolitions in Gaza - was carrying hundreds of tonnes of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement. It is unclear if some or all the supplies will be transported by Israel to Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were today held across Ireland and Britain.
The stand-off has raised international pressure on Israel to lift the three-year-old blockade that has left the territory’s 1.5 million residents facing deep poverty.
The MV Rachel Corrie was carrying just 11 passengers from Ireland and Malaysia, whose effort was mainly sponsored by the Free Gaza movement, a Cyprus-based group that has renounced violence. Nine crew were also on board.
The vessel was around 30 miles outside Gaza when it was intercepted.
The crew of the ship had rejected a deal to unload its cargo in Israel and accompany it across the border.
Irish members of the relief mission include former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire, Derek Graham, who has been on four of the five voyages which docked in Gaza, his wife Jenny, and Dundalk film-maker Fiona Thompson.
Five Malaysians were also on the vessel, captained by Eric Harcus from Scotland.
Sinn Féin Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Israel’s step was unjustified and unacceptable.
“They know the Rachel Corrie and her cargo presents no threat to Israel. The human rights activists on board the boat had made it clear they had no issue with UN officials checking the cargo before they proceeded to Gaza,” he said.