Another ship at the weekend will try to breach Israel's Gaza blockade

'Home' for families in Jabalia, Gaza

An aid ship will be leaving north Cyprus soon to join the merchant vessel Rachel Corrie in order to try to reach Gaza despite Israeli threats. The two ships with over 60 peace activists are expected to be off the Gaza coast over the weekend or early next week.

The MV Rachel Corrie is named after an American killed when she was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003.

The Israeli authorities will be informed of the exact positions of the ship’s passengers and crew who, according to a spokesperson, have been advised “to sit quietly with their hands shown so they cannot do like they did on Monday and claim we attacked them. We are a peaceful mission.”

The activists were not convinced by Israeli pledges to deliver the entire aid to the Gazans. The ship is carrying medical equipment, school supplies and cement.  Israel has banned the latter from entering Gaza which means that rebuilding the city, left crippled after last year’s 22-day Israeli offensive is impossible. The Israelis left 1,434 dead and 5,303 others injured. 960 of the dead were civilians, of which more than 400 were women and children.

“In the names of our friends, we are more determined than ever to continue into Gaza with our humanitarian cargo and our support for the blockaded and suffering people of Gaza. We expect Israel to respond to the international condemnation of its violence by not impeding by any means the safe passage of the Rachel Corrie. We appeal to the international community and the United Nations to continue to demand from Israel our safe passage to Gaza,” read their statement.

Unfortunately, while rockets are being fired from Gaza into Israel and Hamas continue to hold power there then the Israelis will do everything to prevent potential weapons from entering the area. Hamas’ military wing is internationally classified as a terrorist group, however the UK and Australia stand alone in not classifying its “socio-political wing” in the same manner. The situation seems to be similar to that of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

More aid ships to try to reach Gaza despite Israeli threats

Undismayed by the brutal Israeli attack on an aid flotilla in international waters on Monday and ensuing threats that it would intervene in similar initiatives even more forcefully in the future, two more ships with more than 60 peace activists are expected to be off the Gaza coast late this weekend to early next week.

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The MV Rachel Corrie, a converted merchant ship bought by the Irish arm of the Free Gaza movement and named after an American killed when she was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003, set off on Monday from Malta and is expected to be joined by another boat that will set sail from Cyprus.

Speaking to Irish state broadcaster RTE on Wednesday, Derek Graham, a crewmember on the Rachel Corrie, said they were undeterred by the Israeli aggression, which claimed the lives of at least nine unarmed civilians who resisted the illegal Israeli naval commando boarding of the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the three Turkish ships in the aid flotilla.

“We had a meeting after what happened on Monday morning, and we were more determined than ever to continue with our mission,” he said.

He added that he would inform the Israeli authorities of the exact positions of the ship’s passengers and urge those on board to remain peaceful. “I will advise the passengers and crew to sit quietly with their hands shown so they cannot do like they did on Monday and claim we attacked them. We are a peaceful mission,” he said.

Israel said it would continue a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip it has imposed as part of a general embargo on the territory’s border crossings and pledged to halt a new attempt by pro-Palestinian groups to sail more ships into Gaza with even more force, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday, quoting a top Israeli navy commander, who requested to remain anonymous.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, on the other hand, expressed support for the vessel’s humanitarian mission. He said it should be allowed to finish it.

Graham further argued that they were not convinced by Israeli pledges to deliver the entire aid to the Gazans following a security check. The ship is carrying medical equipment, school supplies and cement, material Israel has banned from entering Gaza based on its severe restrictions on construction materials, which leaves rebuilding the city, left crippled after last year’s 22-day Israeli offensive on the impoverished narrow strip, next to impossible. Operation Cast Lead left 1,434 dead and 5,303 others injured, with 960 of the dead civilians, of which more than 400 were women and children.

Peace and humanitarian activists aboard also issued a statement on Tuesday to reiterate their commitment to better the lives of the impoverished Gazans.

“In the names of our friends, we are more determined than ever to continue into Gaza with our humanitarian cargo and our support for the blockaded and suffering people of Gaza. We expect Israel to respond to the international condemnation of its violence by not impeding by any means the safe passage of the Rachel Corrie. We appeal to the international community and the United Nations to continue to demand from Israel our safe passage to Gaza,” read their statement.

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