Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 08:12:41 PM EST
This report, which appeared this morning from the Associated Press, put closure on this effort by the Free Gaza Movement to provide a modicum of humanitarian relief to the Gazan Palestinians.
Israel Navy ships turn back boat carrying Gaza humanitarian aid
Israel Navy ships forced a boat trying to deliver food and medical supplies to Gaza to return to Cyprus early Thursday.
Free Gaza group spokeswoman Mary Hughes-Thompson said Israeli naval vessels surrounded the 66-foot (20-meter) Greek-flagged boat off the coast of southern Lebanon and threatened to open fire if it did not turn back.
The Israel Defense Forces said navy ships warned the boat to turn back because it was entering a war zone subject to a naval blockade. The ship turned back without incident, the military said.
Well at least they tried.
The previous reports about this mission follow:
Spirit of Humanity in Cypress.
This diary is reposted for the updates. The second update at the bottom reflects the new title.
The Free Gaza Movement is active, unable to sit by as the world watches Palestinians being decimated by Israel's armed forces, and is sending another humanitarian mission into Gaza's waters. Contrary to previous information, it has now been reported that at least 85% of the dead and dying in Gaza are civilians, entire families, children, and others.
Monday, 12 January 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Cyprus, 11 January 2009) - The Free Gaza Movement ship, "SPIRIT OF HUMANITY," left Larnaca Port at 3:00 pm, Monday, 12 January, on an emergency mission to besieged Gaza. It is expected to arrive in Gaza at approximately 11am (UST) Tuesday morning. Aboard the ship are 36 passengers and crew, representing 17 different nations. They are five doctors, five journalists, human rights workers, and five European parliamentarians representing Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Spain The mercy ship also carries desperately needed medical supplies meant for hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
This voyage marks Free Gaza's second attempt to break through the blockade since Israel began attacking Gaza on 27 December. Between August and December 2008, the Free Gaza Movement successfully challenged the Israeli blockade five times, landing the first international ships in the port of Gaza since 1967.
The Israeli military violently attacked an earlier attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to send an emergency boat filled with doctors and medical supplies to Gaza. In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 December, the Israeli navy deliberately, repeatedly, and without warning rammed the unarmed ship, the DIGNITY, causing significant structural damage and endangering the lives of its passengers and crew. The DIGNITY found safe harbor in Lebanon, and is currently awaiting repairs.
Shortly before the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY left Cyprus today, the Cypriot authorities informed the Free Gaza Movement that the Israeli government had officially contacted their embassy in Tel Aviv, and warned them that they felt "justified" in using "any means available" to forcibly prevent the mercy ship from arriving in Gaza. At the request of the ship's organizers, the Cypriot authorities searched the ship prior to its departure to certify that it only carried medical supplies.
Fouad Ahidar, a member of the Belgian Parliament sailing to Gaza aboard the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, responded to concerns that Israel may attack the unarmed ship by saying, "I have five children that are very worried about me, but I told them: `you can sit on your couch and watch these atrocities on the television, or you can choose to take action to make them stop.'"
Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have injured thousands of civilians and killed over 900 people, including hundreds of women and children. This ongoing Israeli massacre severely and massively violates international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions, especially the obligations of an Occupying Power and the requirements of the laws of war.
The United Nations has failed to protect the Palestinian civilian population from Israel's massive violations of international humanitarian law. Israel has closed off Gaza from the international community and demanded that all foreigners leave. But Huwaida Arraf, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movements, stated that, "We cannot just sit by and wait for Israel to decide to stop the killing and open the borders for relief workers to pick up the pieces. We are coming in. There is an urgent need for this mission as Palestinian civilians in Gaza are being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel, and access to humanitarian relief denied to them. When states and the international bodies responsible for taking action to stop such atrocities chose to be impotent, then we--the citizens of the world--must act. Our common humanity demands nothing less."
Our best wishes to the Spirit of Humanity.
UPDATE I: Free Gaza Movement reported that the Spirit of Humanity returned to Cyprus after encountering an equipment problem, but is now en route again to Gaza.
Larnaca, Cyprus] The Free Gaza Movement vessel, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, will resume its emergency mission to the besieged Gaza Strip at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The ship will carry desperately needed doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and members of parliaments as well as medical supplies donated by the people of Greece and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza.
After departure on January 12 at 3 pm from Larnaca Port the boat encountered problems with one of its two generators that was compounded by rough weather. For the safety of the passengers, the captain decided to return to port and the boat docked in Larnaca at about 9 pm on January 12. Thanks to the generosity and support of the people of Cyprus, the problem has been quickly repaired and the boat ready to depart.
Israeli authorities have threatened to use "any means" to keep the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY from reaching Gaza. Despite this threat and a previous attack by an Israeli war ship on our motor vessel DIGNITY, the Free Gaza Movement is determined to continue nonviolently challenging Israel's aggression and break the siege on the 1.5 million Palestinians being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Free Gaza Movement organizer Huwaida Arraf said, "We will not let Israel's threats deter us. The Israeli authorities have been put on notice again of our mission; any attack by Israel on the boat will be considered a deliberate attack on unarmed civilians engaged in a humanitarian action."
The medical supplies being taken in include essential parts for ventilators, which will allow the only burn center in the Gaza Strip, at Shifa Hospital, to double its capacity, as well as medicines and basic medical supplies requested by area hospitals in Gaza.
The boat reportedly left for Gaza again this morning, Wednesday, January 14.
UPDATE II: Israel Threatens to Shoot Unarmed Civilians aboard Mercy Ship
Thursday, 15 January 2009 Free Gaza Movement
At roughly 3am UST (1am GMT), in international waters 100 miles off the coast of Gaza, at least five Israeli gunboats surrounded the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and began recklessly cutting in front of the slow-moving civilian craft. The Israeli warships radioed the SPIRIT, demanding that the ship turn around or they would open fire and "shoot." When asked if the Israeli navy was acknowledging that they intended to commit a war crime by deliberately firing on unarmed civilians, the warships replied that they were prepared to use "any means" to stop the ship.
An earlier attempt by Free Gaza to deliver doctors and medical supplies ended on 30 December when Israeli gunboats deliberately and repeatedly rammed the DIGNITY, almost sinking that ship. Rather than endanger the lives of its passengers, the SPIRIT is now returning to Cyprus.
Israel's reckless and shocking threats against an unarmed ship on a mission of mercy are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."