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Israeli gunboats attack Dignity boat on way to Gaza

[Update: Boat landed safely in Lebanon. All aboard okay.]

Please follow updates at the organization that is sponsoring this mercy mission to Gaza:
http://www.freegaza.org

We are concerned for the safety of all the members of the Dignity crew. Though, of special interest to onthewilderside editors is that former Green Party Presidential Candidate/former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is on this boat.

I believe that the Dignity has been damaged, and that it is returning home. Though, it is difficult to sort out the details. Please go to freegaza for more information. See Action Alert and various news stories below.

To support the Dignity, contact:

CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking the Dignity and endangering the lives of its passengers! (KW: I believe that the Dignity is now out of Israeli waters. So, the message could be one of general support, or to ask them to allow aid and mercy missions to Gaza.)

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5062 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 33697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il

From a post at the GP-US national list-serve for delegates:
(excerpt from) Reuters
Israeli naval ship clashes with Gaza aid boat

Reuters, December 30, 2008
http://uk.reuters.com/article/UKNews1/idUKTRE4BT14Q20081230

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli naval ship clashed on Tuesday with a small boat carrying international activists with aid destined for Gaza, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

There were no reported casualties from the incident involving the small cabin cruiser “Dignity” that sailed from Cyprus late on Monday…

Free Gaza Movement told Reuters their boat, carrying 3 1/2 tonnes of medical aid with 16 people aboard, was rammed and shot at while in international waters about 70-80 miles off Gaza by Israeli naval vessel…

Free Gaza Movement said their boat was safe, but had sustained damage.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia; Editing by Matthew Jones)

*  *  *  *  *

From: “Ramzi Kysia”
URGENT! Israeli Navy Attacking Civilian Mercy Ship! TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY!

The Dignity, a Free Gaza boat on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, is being attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters. The Dignity has been surrounded by at least half-a-dozen Israeli warships. They are firing live ammunition around the Dignity, and one of the warships has rammed the civilian craft causing an unknown amount of damage. Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus – despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so. Fortunately, no one aboard the ship has yet been seriously injured.

There are 15 civilian passengers representing 11 different countries (see below for a complete list). At approximately 5am (UST), well out in international waters, Israeli warships began surrounding the Dignity, threatening the ship. At 6:45am (UST) we were able to establish brief contact with the crew and were told that the ship had been rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters, and that the Israelis were preventing the ship from finding safe harbor. We heard heavy gunfire in the background before all contact was lost with the Dignity.

It is urgent that you TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION!

CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it immediately STOP attacking the Dignity and endangering the lives of its passengers!

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5062 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 33697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Dignity departed from Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7pm (UST) on Monday 29 December, bound for war-devastated Gaza with a cargo of over 3 tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated by the people of Cyprus. At our request, the ship was searched by Cypriot Port authorities prior to departure, to certify that there was nothing “threatening” aboard – only emergency medical supplies.

TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY TO STOP THE ISRAELI NAVY FROM ENDANGERING THE DIGNITY AND ITS PASSENGERS!

Civilians aboard the Dignity being threatened by the Israeli military:

(UK) Denis Healey, Captain
Captain of the Dignity, Denis has been involved with boats for 45 years, beginning with small fishing boats in Portsmouth. He learned to sail while at school and has been part of the sea ever since. He’s a certified yachtmaster and has also worked on heavy marine equipment from yachts to large dredgers. This is his fourth trip to Gaza.

(Greece) Nikolas Bolos, First Mate
Nikolas is a chemical engineer and human rights activist. He has served as a crewmember on several Free Gaza voyages, including the first one in August.

(Jordan) Othman Abu Falah
Othman is a senior producer with Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

(Australia) Renee Bowyer
Renee is a schoolteacher and human rights activist. She will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.

(Ireland) Caoimhe Butterly
Caoimhe is a reknowned human rights activist and Gaza Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement. She will be remaining in Gaza to do human rights monitoring, assist with relief efforts, and work on project development with Free Gaza.

(Cyprus) Ekaterini Christodulou
Ekaterini is a well-known and respected freelance journalist in Cyprus. She is traveling to Gaza to report on the conflict.

(Sudan) Sami El-Haj
Sami is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and head of the human rights section at Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

(UK) Dr. David Halpin
Dr. Halpin is an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.

(Germany) Dr. Mohamed Issa
Dr. Issa is a pediatric surgeon from Germany. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.

(UK/Tunisia) Fathi Jaouadi
Fathi is a television producer and human rights activist. He will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.

(USA) Cynthia McKinney
Cynthia is a former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.

(Cyprus) Martha Paisi
Martha is a senior research fellow and experienced human rights activist. She is traveling to Gaza to do human rights work and to assist with humanitarian relief efforts.

(UK) Karl Penhaul
Karl Penhaul is a video correspondent for CNN, based out of Bogot?, Colombia. Appointed to this position in February 2004, he covers breaking news around the world utilizing CNN’s new laptop-based ‘Digital Newsgathering’ system. He is traveling to Gaza to report on the ongoing conflict.

(Iraq) Thaer Shaker
Thaer is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

(Cyprus) Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP
Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Press Release from FreeGaza, who organized the trip of Dignity:

Israeli Navy attacks and wounds Dignity in International Waters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Date : 12-30-2008

(Larnaca, Cyprus, 10:00 am) On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.

The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.

As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well. The Dignity clearly flies the flag of Gibraltar, is piloted by an English captain and has a passenger manifest that includes Representative Cynthia McKinney from the U.S. The attack was filmed by the journalists, and the crew and passengers will report on Israel’s crime at sea once they arrive in Lebanon.

On board the boat are doctors traveling to this impoverished slice of the Mediterranean to provide badly-needed relief at the hospitals there.  The crew and passengers were also hoping to take wounded out for treatment, since the hospitals are not coping. In addition, the Dignity was carrying 3 tons of medical supplies at the request of the doctors in Gaza.

The three physicans on board who were sailing to Gaza are: Dr. Halpin (UK), an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Mohamed Issa (Germany), a pediatric surgeon from Germany is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Elena Theoharous (Cyprus), MP Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Yet Israel thumbs its nose in the face of maritime law by attacking a human rights boat in international waters and has put all of these human rights observers at risk. At no time was the Dignity ever close to Israeli waters. They clearly identified themselves and the Israeli attack was willful and criminal.

The Dignity is still in international waters, 40 miles off Haifa. Everybody on board is safe at the moment as the boat slowly makes its way to safety in Lebanon.

A news story:

09:15 , 12.30.08

Navy orders aid boat to Gaza to retreat
Roni Sofer

International Solidarity Movement ship carrying aid, journalists, doctors making way to Gaza from Cyprus collides with Israeli naval vessel, is ordered to turn back. Free Gaza Movement says Israel surrounded ship, fired at it.

An incident occurred Tuesday morning between an Israeli Navy vessel and a foreign aid boat making its way form Cyprus to the Gaza Strip.

The foreign ship was notified that it was crossing into a closed military zone and ordered to retreat, but the captain did not stop and collided with the Israeli missile ship. No one was injured in the incident.

Early Tuesday morning navy ships were called to stop a ship belonging to the International Solidarity Movement, which is recognized in Israel as a pro-Palestinian organization.

The Israelis contacted the ship’s captain through the radio and ordered the ship to turn back.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the captain of the aid boat carrying several journalists attempted to evade one of the Israeli missile ships. The Israeli ship stopped, but a collision could not be avoided.

Immediately after the incident the aid ship turned back. The Israeli naval ship offered to assist the passengers of the aid ship, who declined the offer. Israel then escorted the damaged ship until it exited the State’s territorial waters.

3 Responses

  1. […] GP Prez Cand Cynthia McKinney: On My Way to Gaza [Update! Tuesday, December 30th, am: Israeli gunboats attacked. Dignity boat rammed another boat and is taking on some water. Crew okay. Story is: here.] […]

  2. My heart goes out to the people of Gaza. Inumerable injustices have been done against the people of Palestine and this has to end.

    Israel continues with its terror and carnage and the world watches silently. It seems that the few thousand protestors are the only humans left on the planet.

    The Palestinians rockets are a desperate attempt to lift the blockage and seige of Gaza. It was Israel that imposed this inhumane seige and it was Israel that broke the Cease-Fire. Just because their zionist brothers in the west own all major media networks, they lie and fool the world into believeing that their actions are justified and that they are only ‘retaliating’. Their lies and manipulations make people believe that Israel is always the ‘victim’.

    Hamas is a democractically elected Government, established through free and fair elections. But this version of democracy and the mandate of the people of Palestine is unacceptable to the West. This is the hypocrisy of the west, and they continue to support Israel in its crimes against humanity.

    Towards Everlasting Peace.
    Towards a World without Israel.
    Towards the Third Intifada.

    PS: Jews are welcome to live in Palestine.

  3. i just made a small donation to this movement i hope i wont labeled as terrorist now lol

    we all should donates
    http://www.freegaza.org/index.php?language=EN&module=donations

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