1 Jul 2009

Outrage at seizure of the 'Spirit of Humanity'

News that Israeli soldiers have boarded a Free Gaza boat 24 miles off the shore of Gaza and cut all of its official communication is pretty outrageous to say the least.

Photo: Martin Whiteside in Stroud at a recent vigil to highlight concerns re Gaza

The boat was on its way to deliver urgently needed supplies to the people of Gaza when the Israeli Navy boarded and told the Free Gaza activists to return to international waters, warning that they “will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza”. The boat’s navigational equipment was electronically jammed overnight by the navy. This boat, the ‘Spirit of Humanity’, was carrying only unarmed human rights workers and journalists – including Denis Healy, Nobel peace prize laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman and Green party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney.

In an email to the Israeli embassy, Dr Lucas MEP has already called on the Israeli authorities to guarantee the safety of the human rights campaigners onboard and to prevent violence being used against the Free Gaza boat or any individuals sailing upon it. Here is the letter adapted from a campaign letter that I sent to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband: msu.correspondence@fco.gov.uk

I was very concerned to hear the news that the Israeli Navy illegally intercepted and boarded the Free Gaza ship 'Spirit of Humanity', whilst it was in international waters. It appears they have kidnapped the 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including UK citizens Ishmahil Blagrove, Alex Harrison, Denis Healey, Fathi Jaouadi, Theresa McDermott and Adnan Mormesh, and taken the boat to an Israeli port.

The boat holds medicine, toys, and other much needed humanitarian relief for the Palestinians living in Gaza under siege. Its cargo was searched and it received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before departure.
As the International Committee of the Red Cross said in their report, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair."

Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel 's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel 's disruption of medical supplies.

I urge you to insist that the Israeli Government immediately release the Spirit of Humanity and all its passengers, and take all the necessary steps to ensure it can complete its humanitarian mission in safety. I also urge you to act to ensure that the Israeli government does not commit any further acts of piracy and kidnapping of boats and their crew in international waters.

Cllr. Philip Booth

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