On November 4, Israeli warships stopped two Freedom Waves to Gaza boats in international waters that were attempting to deliver medical aid to Gaza, in defiance of the Israeli blockade. The following is abridged from a statement by Free Gaza Australia.
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All communication was cut late last night to Freedom Waves boats Tahrir and Saoirse as they were sailing in international waters, approximately 50 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.
The Tahrir was carrying 12 crew and passengers, including Australian Michael Coleman, whilst the Saoirse had 15 people on board. Earlier this morning we contacted DFAT who advised that it will contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Free Gaza Australia spokesperson Kate Ausburn said “We are still awaiting a response to earlier communication to Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. When will Kevin or Julia pick up the phone to Netanyahu? Or maybe they are content that Israel has ‘stopped the boats’?”
An hour earlier, two naval vessels of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were sighted rapidly approaching and then made radio contact. On board the Tahrir, Ehab Latoyef from the organising committee in Canada responded to the radio requests for the Tahrir’s final destination with “the conscience of humanity” and when the question was repeated, “the betterment of mankind”.
An Israeli spokesperson said the boats were taken to the port of Ashdod, and that Israeli police have taken the passengers into custody.
Free Gaza Australia calls on the Australian government to immediately demand that the Israeli government condemn this act of piracy by the Israeli government and not harm any passengers aboard the Tahrir or its sister ship Saoirse.
The Tahrir and the Saoirse have every legal right to proceed to Gaza unimpeded. A group of five United Nations Special Rapporteurs for human rights on September 13 declared “the blockade of Gaza continues to violate international law”.
The UN Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 concluded that the blockade is illegal and Israeli policies in Gaza are a form of collective punishment. There is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people.
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