Irish activists say Israel sabotaged flotilla vessel

ISTANBUL Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:51pm EDT

A view shows the Stefano Chiarini ship, part of the ''Freedom Flotilla II'', which is due to set sail to Gaza from Greece, in Corfu June 30, 2011. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

A view shows the Stefano Chiarini ship, part of the ''Freedom Flotilla II'', which is due to set sail to Gaza from Greece, in Corfu June 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Marko Djurica

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Irish pro-Palestinian activists accused Israel on Thursday of sabotaging their boat while it was docked in Turkey to stop it joining an international flotilla bound for the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

The crew of the MV Saoirse realized there was something wrong with the propeller shaft when they took the vessel for refueling at Gocek on Turkey's southwest coast on Monday. Activists said a marine engineer who inspected the damaged boat in dry dock declared that it had been sabotaged.

"It's identical to the damage to the Swedish boat and you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is behind this," Paul Hogan, a former Irish rugby international who was among the activists, told Irish state broadcaster RTE.

"Israel has made statements saying that this flotilla will be stopped."

The flotilla, which is now down to nine vessels from some 15 planned earlier, hopes to set out over the weekend in an attempt to run an Israeli naval blockade to take relief supplies to Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

The challenge to the Israeli blockade comes a little over a year after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara ship, the main vessel in a six-strong convoy, and killed nine activists, after an initial boarding party was attack with bats and knives.

Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel and is regarded as a terrorist group by Western powers, including the United States and the European Union. Israel says it blockades Gaza to stop the import of arms.

Twenty Irish activists had expected to make the voyage to Gaza on the Saoirse, but only six would be able to go due to a lack of room on other vessels in the flotilla.

Paul Murphy, a socialist member of the European Parliament who was among them, called on the Irish government to expel the Israeli ambassador to Dublin.

"The evidence pointing toward the Israeli state being guilty is overwhelming," Murphy said in a statement.

"It cannot be a coincidence that two of the boats destined to sail to Gaza have now been sabotaged in the same way, with their propeller shafts damaged."

Asked to comment on the allegation, Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: "These activists are not known for their objectivity. Some people blame Israel for every calamity. But obviously that cannot be true."

The Mavi Marmara was pulled out of the flotilla by the Islamic charity organizing the Turkish contingent earlier this month, as it lacked documents needed to put to sea due to damage sustained last year.

ISRAEL PREPARES

The United Nations has asked governments to persuade the activists to abandon their plans and Netanyahu thanked it, Greece and the United States for their efforts during a speech at an Israeli air force cadets' graduation ceremony.

He reiterated that Israel had what he called a "total right to act against attempts to legitimize the smuggling of missiles and rockets and other weapons to the Hamas terror enclave," citing attacks launched against Israeli civilians.

Despite the delays in setting out, an Israel-based journalist on board a U.S. vessel of the flotilla docked in Greece reported on Thursday on the microblogging website Twitter its passengers were on board and "waiting for it to set sail."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday his troops were readying for all eventualities.

"I am sure the (military) is better prepared than in the past. This is not a sea cadet ride or a pleasure cruise and in any event we must be ready for all scenarios ... The working assumption for the forces is that they could meet very violent resistance," Barak told Israel's Channel 2 television.

(Additional reporting by Carmel Crimmins in Dublin and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem)

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Comments (8)
bobolino59 wrote:
You could have mentioned Israel repeatedly offered to deliver the food and goods itself to Gaza if they where deposited in an Israeli port.

Unfortunately these activists are not interested in helping the Palestinian people. They just want to attack and discredit Israel with violent unilateral action to cross a legal military blockade.

Jun 30, 2011 5:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAalltheway wrote:
Brilliant move by Israel. It quietly and peacefully avoids an unnecessary provocation on the high seas. The poor activists have succummbed to the Palestinian propoganda. Their efforts would be better spent on nations who really need help. Millions from the US and EU go Palestine and are squandered every year

Jun 30, 2011 5:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Austell wrote:
“The challenge to the Israeli blockade comes a little over a year after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara ship, the main vessel in a six-strong convoy, and killed nine activists,”

“after an initial boarding party was attack with bats and knives.”

Who’s opinion is this???
Because the way I remember it, Israelis ‘attacked’ the vessel in ‘international waters’ and when the activists tried to defend themselves they were murdered.

But don’t let a few little facts get in the way of your story reuters!

These people were trying to provide food and humanitarian aid to the desperately oppressed Palistinians who’d just had their families slaughtered and lives destroyed in Gaza and Israel murdered them.

When are you going to stop your blatent support for these psychopathic religious terrorists reuters?

Can you at least reference which side has killed far more civillians so that we know what we’re dealing with here??

Jun 30, 2011 12:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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