Five Irish activists whose ship was blocked from delivering humanitarian relief supplies to Gaza will arrive back in Dublin tomorrow, it was confirmed today.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the prisoners from the MV Rachel Corrie who were deported from Israel will board a flight from Tel Aviv in the morning.
The boat was the last remaining vessel of the Gaza Freedom flotilla, a 40-nation effort to break through Israel’s illegal blockade.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin paid tribute to those on board the Rachel Corrie for their peaceful demonstration.
He maintained one crew member even facilitated the boarding by throwing a rope down over the side of the cargo ship.
“I think it demonstrated the capacity of people to engage in political protests, to make their point peacefully,” said Mr Martin.
“I hope it’s something the Israeli government will take on board and not to be branding people like this as being on a voyage of hate, as one minister did last week.”
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 were among the Irish members of the relief mission.
It is understood six Malaysians and a Cuban from the vessel have already left Israel through the West Bank.
The 1,200-tonne MV Rachel Corrie, named after an American college student crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting against Israeli house demolitions in Gaza, is docked in Ashdod with hundreds of tonnes of aid.
It was intercepted around 30 miles from Gaza yesterday morning after activists rejected a deal to unload its cargo in Israel and accompany it across the border.
No resistance was encountered on board and the aid workers were taken to Ashdod and on to a detention centre near Tel Aviv, where they waived their right to appeal against an order of deportation.
The peaceful takeover was in contrast to the violent confrontation at sea last Monday when armed commandos stormed several aid vessels trying to reach the territory.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is reported to have proposed a multinational investigation of Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed.
Mr Martin – who has spoken to Mr Halliday since his detention – described events this week as a watershed and again called on the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza.
“From a humanitarian perspective it has had an appalling impact on the food requirements of the people of Gaza, on the education opportunities and health facilities in terms of clean water and the very basic necessities of life,” he told RTÉ.
“It is having an appalling impact. It has to be lifted.”