Belfast Telegraph

Irish Gaza aid ship damaged in dock

An Irish aid ship has been forced to pull out of a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade after it was damaged while docked in Turkey.

Human rights activists claim the lives of 20 Irish citizens were put at risk by a deliberate sabotage of the MV Saoirse, which they blamed on Israel.

Dr Fintan Lane, co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, said the damage to the propeller shaft was a potentially murderous act. If pressure had been put on the shaft, which was weakened by a piece gouged out, it could have snapped, damaged the engine room and flooded the boat at sea, he said.

"This wasn't designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth. Instead it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and would have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board," he said. "This was a potentially murderous act."

Six members of the Irish Ship to Gaza, including Dr Lane and former rugby player Trevor Hogan, plan to join an Italian ship, while seven other members will arrive back in Dublin airport later. Others hope to travel on other aid ships. The damage is said to be identical to damage suffered by the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, in recent days.

Dr Lane demanded that the Irish and European governments condemn the attacks despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny warning the Irish human rights activists against trying to break the blockade.

Israel has not commented on the allegations. About 10 ships are due to set sail this week from Greece. It is unclear if the damaged boats will cause a delay.

Almost 130,000 euro was raised in Ireland to fund the humanitarian mission, which planned to take medication and sports equipment to Gaza. Repairs to the vessel - which had been under constant watch since it arrived in the port of Gocek in early June - will cost an estimated 15,000 euro.

Mark Hogan, brother of the former Leinster rugby star, said the group remained determined and confident about bringing an end to the immoral and illegal blockade on Gaza. "They will not be deterred by the malicious and reckless sabotage on the MV Saoirse," he said.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he had concerns over reports the MV Saoirse had been sabotaged. "That is something I think that is going to have to be investigated initially by the Turkish authorities and I will take a very serious view of it if turns out that there was sabotage of that vessel," he said.

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