The Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) group strongly condemned this morning’s attack by Israel on the ships of the Freedom Flotilla and calls for an end to the illegal, immoral siege of Gaza.
As the people of Gaza waited expectantly on the shores of the besieged enclave, and as the ships of Freedom Flotilla 3 sailed towards them in solidarity and to highlight the siege, Israeli forces boarded the Marianne and kidnapped the crew. Two other ships were turned back after ‘interception’ by Israel.
As with previous campaigns by human rights activists to reach Gaza by sea, Freedom Flotilla 3 had been sailing in international waters over which Israel has no sovereignty, making the latter’s interference in the boats an act of piracy.
The 48 participants on board the flotilla from 17 countries include human rights activists, journalists, artists, and political figures, one of them a Palestinian Member of the Knesset. Members of our own organization have previously sailed with many of those aboard and were attacked, kidnapped and illegally held by Israel. GAI commends the work of solidarity groups to continue bravely to highlight the siege of Gaza.
“We remember only too well the lengths Israel went to maintain its illegal siege of Gaza, from attacking ships, murdering nine people on the Mavi Marmara and imprisoning and deporting peace activists, as well as stealing our vessels, aid materials and equipment.” GAI coordinator Mags O’Brien said.
The situation in Gaza has become increasingly grim and even before last summer’s murderous 51 day assault by Israel where more than 2,200 people, including more than 530 children were killed, NGOs and civil society were warning of extreme humanitarian disaster. Since then, almost no rebuilding has taken place with up to 100,000 people having spent the winter in makeshift tents, sleeping in schools and structurally unsound buildings.
The UN’s most recent inquiry into the situation on Gaza published earlier this month reports on massive emotional and psychological wounds felt by Palestinians as a result of the blockade and the most recent military assault on Gaza.
Israel and Egypt have maintained the blockade since 2007, increasing its intensity to unprecedented levels since the last major military assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Patients needing to travel outside the Strip have died as a result of this closure, which amounts to forced imprisonment in the territory.
Zoe Lawlor, GAI coordinator, said, “We call on Israel to immediately lift the siege of Gaza, to open the port, to allow all materials for reconstruction to enter and to cease its imprisonment of the Palestinians living there.
“We also call on the Irish government to cease its arms trade with Israel and to push for sanctions on that state until the latter ends its apartheid policies and daily violations of international law. It is an affront to humanity that Israel is not held accountable for the suffering it continues to inflict.”
Gaza Action Ireland, which grew out of the Irish Ship to Gaza initiative, is a solidarity group that organises civil-society contacts between Ireland and Palestinians in the Gaza strip. It is responsible for the Windows Into Gaza art exhibition that is currently touring Ireland, and it is planning to bring a team of young footballers from Gaza to play in Ireland in the coming year. In addition to artists and sports clubs, it has also forged links with fishermen, journalists, human-rights activists and providers of emergency services.