Below are three reports from the Free Gaza movement which successfully challenged Israel's siege on Gaza in 2008, landing several boats in Gaza port with supplies, journalists and activists. Now en route to Gaza is another boat, the Spirit of Humanity.
Please read "WHAT YOU CAN DO", a request for your personal intervention with Israeli authorities.
For a full list of the passengers on board the Spirit of Humanity and the "Official Notification of Intent to Enter" sent by Free Gaza to Israeli officials, see: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=31275
FREE GAZA MOVEMENT
For Immediate Release
January 14, 2009
SPIRIT OF HUMANITY RESUMING MISSION
[Larnaca, Cyprus] The Free Gaza Movement vessel, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, will resume its emergency mission to the besieged Gaza Strip at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The ship will carry desperately needed doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and members of parliaments as well as medical supplies donated by the people of Greece and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza.
After departure on January 12 at 3 pm from Larnaca Port the boat encountered problems with one of its two generators that was compounded by rough weather. For the safety of the passengers, the captain decided to return to port and the boat docked in Larnaca at about 9 pm on January 12. Thanks to the generosity and support of the people of Cyprus, the problem has been quickly repaired and the boat ready to depart.
Israeli authorities have threatened to use "any means" to keep the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY from reaching Gaza. Despite this threat and a previous attack by an Israeli war ship on our motor vessel DIGNITY, the Free Gaza Movement is determined to continue nonviolently challenging Israel's aggression and break the siege on the 1.5 million Palestinians being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Free Gaza Movement organizer Huwaida Arraf said, "We will not let Israel's threats deter us. The Israeli authorities have been put on notice again of our mission; any attack by Israel on the boat will be considered a deliberate attack on unarmed civilians engaged in a humanitarian action."
The medical supplies being taken in include essential parts for ventilators, which will allow the only burn center in the Gaza Strip, at Shifa Hospital, to double its capacity, as well as medicines and basic medical supplies requested by area hospitals in Gaza.
New Free Gaza ship en route - ambiguous assurances from PM`s office
By Anis Hamadeh/Paul Larudee
Free Gaza Movement
January 12, 2009
Original title: `I can assure you that Israel will respect international law`
At 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, official Israeli Prime Minister Spokesperson Mark Regev discussed the current voyage of Free Gaza boat `Spirit of Humanity` with Free Gaza co-founder Paul Larudee.
Larudee was seeking assurance that Israel would not harm the boat or prevent it from entering Gaza with medical supplies and personnel, as well journalists and human rights workers. The boat is currently at sea, heading for Gaza. Israel is threatening to use `all available means` to stop the boat. On Dec. 30, an Israel gunboat rammed and almost sank a previous boat. Here is a rough, reconstructed transcript of the conversation:
Larudee: Hello, Mark? This is Paul Larudee, calling from California about the boat going from Cyprus to Gaza with medical supplies and personnel on board. [audible moan from Mark] The Israeli government has threatened to use `all available means` to stop the boat. I would like your assurances that the boat will not be attacked or prevented from completing its mission.
Regev: This boat is not really about humanitarian aid. The Free Gaza Movement is a group of Hamas sympathizers. The aid that they are carrying is less than half of what is carried by even one of the more than 1000 trucks that Israel has allowed into Gaza since the start of the military campaign.
Larudee: But Mark, what is the harm in letting the boat through?
Regev: If these people want to free Gaza, let them free Gaza from Hamas. Do you know how Hamas treats its own people? [ensuing diatribe about Hamas]
Larudee: I`m not sure I agree with you on all points, Mark...
Regev: This is not an opinion. These are facts. How can you dispute facts?
Larudee: Mark, I`m not going to argue with you about this. I will concede all of this, because I`m asking something else. The boat has doctors and medical aid aboard and has been inspected by the Cypriot government. What is the harm for it to go to Gaza?
Regev: The Israeli government reserves all options, but the harm is that this is propaganda for Hamas.
Larudee: Mark, you will remember that on the very first voyage by Free Gaza in August, you announced that Israel had decided not to interfere because you knew that it was not a security threat, and to interfere would provide a propaganda victory for the group. Why is this situation any different?
Regev: I`m not sure that we will do the same this time. It is a different situation.
Larudee: Well, Israel did nothing stop the next four voyages and then one of your gunboats rammed the last one...
Regev: We dispute that version of events...
Larudee: OK, in any case the boat was heavily damaged somehow, and we are hoping that Israel will do what it can to make sure that nothing like that happens again. It is a war crime to attack a civilian target and a violation of the Geneva accords to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching war victims.
Regev: Israel doesn`t commit war crimes, and we always follow international law.
Larudee: Mark, I know you`re loyal to your government, and I wish I could be as sure of that as you are. I just want to be sure that the boat will be safe and will reach its destination.
Regev: I can assure you that Israel will respect international law.
Larudee: Oh, Mark! This is wonderful news! That is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Thank you so much. I feel so much better now. I`m going to take this as a very good sign that the boat will get through.
Regev: Yes, well thank you for calling.
Larudee: Thank you, Mark.
MERCY SHIP DEPARTS FOR GAZA: "WE ARE COMING IN ON TUESDAY"
Monday, Jan. 12
(Cyprus, 11 January 2009) - The Free Gaza Movement ship, `SPIRIT OF HUMANITY,` left Larnaca Port at 3:00 pm, Monday, 12 January, on an emergency mission to besieged Gaza. It is expected to arrive in Gaza at approximately 11am (UST) Tuesday morning.
Aboard the ship are 36 passengers and crew, representing 17 different nations. They are doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and five European parliamentarians representing Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Spain (see below for a complete passenger list). The mercy ship also carries desperately needed medical supplies meant for hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
(Cyprus/Gaza) Huwaida Arraf, +357 96 723 999 or +357 99 081 767 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497 email@example.com
(U.S.) Ramzi Kysia, +1 703 994 5422 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Cyprus, 11 January 2009) - The Free Gaza Movement ship, `SPIRIT OF HUMANITY,` left Larnaca Port at 3:00 pm, Monday, 12 January, on an emergency mission to besieged Gaza. It is expected to arrive in Gaza at approximately 11am (UST) Tuesday morning. Aboard the ship are 36 passengers and crew, representing 17 different nations. They are doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and five European parliamentarians representing Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Spain (see below for a complete passenger list). The mercy ship also carries desperately needed medical supplies meant for hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
This voyage marks Free Gaza`s second attempt to break through the blockade since Israel began attacking Gaza on 27 December. Between August and December 2008, the Free Gaza Movement successfully challenged the Israeli blockade five times, landing the first international ships in the port of Gaza since 1967.
The Israeli military violently attacked an earlier attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to send an emergency boat filled with doctors and medical supplies to Gaza. In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 December, the Israeli navy deliberately, repeatedly, and without warning rammed the unarmed ship, the DIGNITY, causing significant structural damage and endangering the lives of its passengers and crew. The DIGNITY found safe harbor in Lebanon, and is currently awaiting repairs.
Shortly before the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY left Cyprus today, the Cypriot authorities informed the Free Gaza Movement that the Israeli government had officially contacted their embassy in Tel Aviv, and warned them that they felt `justified` in using `any means available` to forcibly prevent the mercy ship from arriving in Gaza. At the request of the ship`s organizers, the Cypriot authorities searched the ship prior to its departure to certify that it only carried medical supplies.
Fouad Ahidar, a member of the Belgian Parliament sailing to Gaza aboard the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, responded to concerns that Israel may attack the unarmed ship by saying, `I have five children that are very worried about me, but I told them: 'you can sit on your couch and watch these atrocities on the television, or you can choose to take action to make them stop.``
Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have injured thousands of civilians and killed over 900 people, including hundreds of women and children. This ongoing Israeli massacre severely and massively violates international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions, especially the obligations of an Occupying Power and the requirements of the laws of war.
The United Nations has failed to protect the Palestinian civilian population from Israel`s massive violations of international humanitarian law. Israel has closed off Gaza from the international community and demanded that all foreigners leave. But Huwaida Arraf, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movements, stated that, `We cannot just sit by and wait for Israel to decide to stop the killing and open the borders for relief workers to pick up the pieces. We are coming in. There is an urgent need for this mission as Palestinian civilians in Gaza are being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel, and access to humanitarian relief denied to them. When states and the international bodies responsible for taking action to stop such atrocities chose to be impotent, then we--the citizens of the world--must act. Our common humanity demands nothing less.`
Israel has been notified that we are coming. A copy of the notification to the Israeli Authorities is attached. The Free Gaza Movement will hold Israel responsible for any harm that may be done to the ship or its passengers.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Take Action! CALL the Israeli Government and let them know that the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY is coming to Gaza. DEMAND that Israel immediately STOP slaughtering civilians in Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
Mark Regev in the Prime Minister`s office:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence:
+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy:
+ 972 5 781 86248
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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