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Aid workers 'may fight deportation'

Aid workers on board a ship blocked from delivering relief supplies to Gaza could fight deportation, Irish authorities and campaigners have confirmed.

They were taken to a detention centre near Tel Aviv on Saturday night but it may be some time before the five Irish passengers arrive home, a Department of Foreign Affairs source said.

The 11 from Ireland and Malaysia on the MV Rachel Corrie cargo ship arrived on Saturday evening in the port town of Ashdod after the ship was taken over by Israeli forces.

The military seized the 1,200-tonne boat from the sea. No resistance was encountered.

A source at the Department of Foreign Affairs said: "They can either agree to leave similar to what happened to the first flotilla, if they don't agree the Israeli deportation process will begin."

He said the Irish authorities were willing to offer whatever assistance they could.

A spokesman for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee said: "We know from our discussions with the Irish onboard prior to the hijacking of their boat that they will insist that they were brought to Israel against their will and will refuse to accept deportation."

The seemingly bloodless action contrasted with a violent confrontation at sea earlier this week when Israeli forces blocked a Turkish aid vessel trying to reach the territory. At the time, Israeli commandos descended from helicopters and a clash with passengers left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

The Irish ship - named for an American college student crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting against Israeli house demolitions in Gaza - was carrying hundreds of tonnes of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement. It is unclear if some or all the supplies will be trucked by Israel to Gaza.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph