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04 Jun

MV Rachel Corrie, Irish aid ship bound for Gaza won’t stop ‘unless forced to’

Sources: Various

New statement from PGPO Humanitarian Mission Leader on board MV Rachel Corrie

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Turkish Warships sent to protect MV Rachel Corrie

An Irish-owned aid ship headed for Gaza won’t stop until it’s forced to, a former U.N. official aboard the ship told CNN Thursday. 

“We have not stopped and have no intention of stopping,” said former Assistant U.N. Secretary-General Denis Halliday from aboard the vessel. “We will only stop when Israelis force us to do so.” 

The MV Rachel Corrie, named for an American activist killed in Gaza several years ago, was expected to arrive late Friday or early Saturday off the coast of Gaza. Israel was offering to unload its cargo in Israel’s Ashdod port, screen the material and then deliver it to Gaza, but fears of another high-seas confrontation were in the offing. 

However, Halliday said the 11 people aboard the ship — which is carrying 550 tons of cement to help in the effort to rebuild schools, homes and other building destroyed in Gaza — had no plans of confronting Israelis who may stop the vessel. 

“We will stand back and show we are harmless and unarmed — we will put up no resistance,” he said. “We’re not going to make any silly mistakes.” 

Earlier Thursday, a Free Gaza Movement activist told CNN that the Rachel Corrie delayed its voyage while it was being equipped with video and satellite devices to to record what is happening on the vessel. 

Adam Shapiro, Free Gaza board member, said the additions to the ship are being made for safety purposes. 

Shapiro said Israel has made it clear it would intercept the ship, and he hopes recording technology on the ship will make a difference in the behavior of any soldiers who board the vessel. 

“Israel will be sensitive to the fact that we’ll be recording what’s happening and streaming it live,” said Shapiro, who didn’t identify where the Rachel Corrie is docking. He said it will head toward Gaza within the week. 

An Israeli government official, who spoke on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, told CNN the government is offering to receive the ship’s cargo, as it has offered other vessels, if it docks at Ashdod’s port. 

That was the same deal rejected by the flotilla of six ships bound for Gaza before Israeli commandos raided one of them Monday. 

Halliday acknowledged that cement the aid ship is carrying is not considered by Israel as a form of humanitarian aid, but he said the ship will push forward to Gaza: “We don’t want to see our cement sitting there” in Ashdod. 

Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States, said the two countries are having initial talks about opening up a dialogue to address the civilian needs of the people in Gaza and Israel’s security interests. However, Oren said the dialogue would not involve an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. 

Referring to comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called the situation in Gaza “unsustainable,” Oren said, “We don’t disagree with that. We are open to suggestions on how to ameliorate the situation.” 

Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, reported on Thursday that a “diplomatic solution” that would allow the vessel to dock at Ashdod “seems imminent.” 

Citing European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem, the newspaper said “quiet messages have been exchanged over the past few days between Israel and the group operating the ship, to allow it to dock” in Israel. 

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Robert Herron

Some Rachels’ blown up by Palestinian bombs, who didn’t get a ship named after them

1. Rachel Levy (Israeli girl age 17, blown up in a grocery store)

2. Rachel Thaler (Israeli girl aged 16, blown up in a pizzeria)

3. Rachel Levi (Israeli girl aged 19, murdered while waiting for the bus)

4. Rachel Gavish (killed with her husband and son while at home)

5. Rachel Charhi (blown up while sitting in a cafe)

6. Rachel Shabo (murdered with her three sons aged 5, 13 and 6 while sitting at home)

The Israelis are blockading weapons not humanitarian aid, and rightly demand to inspect ships going to Gaza. What is the problem with this?

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