Israeli vessel hits Gaza-bound boat
Onboard is Al-Jazeera reporter Sami al-Haj, former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay; Hon. Cynthia McKinney (former U.S. Congresswoman, 9/11 Truth activist) and three doctors
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
19:17 Mecca time, 16:17 GMT
News Middle East
Video of damage:
Israeli Gunboats Came out of the Darkness and Rammed us Three Times
Date : 12-30-2008
For more information, please contact:
(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497 / firstname.lastname@example.org
(Cyprus) Lubna Masarwa +357 99 081 767 / email@example.com
(Lebanon) Caoimhe Butterley +961 70 875 727 / firstname.lastname@example.org
By Free Gaza
LEBANON (December 30) -- Today the Free Gaza ship "Dignity" carefully made its way to safe harbor in Tyre, Lebanon's southern-most port city, after receiving serious structural damage when Israeli warships rammed its bow and the port side. Waiting to greet the passengers and crew were thousands of Lebanese who came out to show their solidarity with this attempt to deliver volunteer doctors and desperately needed medical supplies to war-ravaged Gaza. The Lebanese government has pledged to provide a forensic analysis of what happened in the dark morning, when Israel rammed the civilian ship in international waters, and put the people on board in danger of losing their lives.
The Dignity, on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, was attacked by the Israeli Navy at approximately 6am (UST) in international waters, roughly 90 miles off the coast of Gaza. Several Israeli warships surrounded the small, human rights boat, firing live ammunition around it, then intentionally ramming it three times. According to ship's captain Denis Healy, the Israeli attack came, ""without any warning, or any provocation."
Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, stated that, "The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing flares and flashing huge flood lights into our faces. We were so shocked that at first we didn't react. We knew we were well within international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting the life boats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn't turn back they would shoot us."
Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, was traveling to Gaza aboard the Dignity in order to assess the impact of Israel's military onslaught against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
According to McKinney, "Israeli patrol boats...tracked us for about 30 minutes ... and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side ... the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist activities."
The Dignity departed from Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7pm (UST) on Monday 29 December with a cargo of over 3 tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated to Gaza by the people of Cyprus. Three surgeons were also aboard, traveling to Gaza to volunteer in overwhelmed hospitals and clinics. The ship was searched by Cypriot Port authorities prior to departure, and its passenger list was made public.
Israel's deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is 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."
Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is a just such a "peaceful purpose." Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism.
CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking the civilian population of Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
+ 972 5 781 86248
The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel's draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.
Atlanta Journal Constitution article
News from Al-Jazeera
A small boat, damaged as it tried to break the Israeli blockade of the
Gaza Strip, has arrived in the Lebanese port of Tyre.
The Dignity started taking on water after it was hit by an Israeli naval
vessel as it approached the Israeli coast with its cargo of medical aid.
The Free Gaza Movement, which organised the attempt to reach the territory
, said their boat was "rammed" and shots were fired when at least four
Israeli vessels confronted them in international waters.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, denied there had
been any shooting but said that the ships had made "physical contact".
He said that the crew of the Dignity had failed to respond to Israeli
naval radio contact.
Elize Ernshire, one of the activists onboard the boat, told Al Jazeera by
telephone that the boat was rammed twice from the front and then once from
"It has destroyed the front of the boat and the roof ... and has left the
cabin, the wheelhouse quite destroyed," she said.
" ... we were threatened directly by the Israeli navy that if we continued
on our course towards Gaza they would attack us again."
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said that the incident was
nothing more than a "propoganda stunt".
"Israel would never have done anything against international law, that is
inconceivable," he told Al Jazeera.
"These people just want a headline, they don't really want to help the
people of Gaza, if they wanted to help the people of Gaza they would be
asking Hamas why they initiated the violence."
Several small boats have arrived in the Gaza Strip carrying international
activists and medical aid since August in defiance of the Israeli siege.
Ernshire said that the incident would not stop the movement trying again
to take aid to the impoverished territory.
"The majority of passenger here are determined, once we reach Lebanon, to
keep continuing to organise such boats as these, to reach the people of
Gaza," she said.
Gaza's health system is struggling to cope with the casualties from four
consecutive days of aerial bombardment by Israeli warplanes and helicopter
Hospitals were already facing shortages of medicines and other medical
products due to the Israeli siege imposed after the Hamas government
seized full control of the territory in 2007.
As well as more than three tonnes of aid, the Dignity was carrying three
doctors to help treat the more than 1,600 wounded in recent days.
Avital Leibovitz, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said that humanitarian
aid was being allowed into the Gaza Strip and the medical supplies on the
boat would not have made much impact on the humanitarian situation.
"Lets not talk about a blockade because it does not exist, the
humanitarian corridor is active, alive and working," she told Al Jazeera.
"There are a numerous number of trucks enetring Gaza with food and
medicine according to the requests of the aid organisations."
Three Al Jazeera journalists were among the 15 people onboard the boat.
"Al Jazeera holds Israel responsible for the safety of the Al Jazeera
journalists and everyone on board the Dignity," Wadah Khanfar, director
general of the Al Jazeera network said in a statement.
"Al Jazeera's presence on the boat is to cover the expedition for news and
journalistic purposes. We are deeply concerned for the safety and well
being of our journalists."