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Activists fly home as Brady slams Israeli blockade

By Margaret Canning

Five Irish activists — including a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland — from intercepted aid boat the Rachel Corrie will fly into Dublin this morning after being deported by Israel.

The Irish-owned vessel set out for Gaza as part of a flotilla carrying aid to the territory, which has been under a blockade by Israel for three years.

Its attempt to break the blockade came just days after nine Turkish activists were shot dead by Israeli soldiers who boarded their boat, also part of the flotilla, last Monday.

Israel yesterday made it clear it would not accept a UN plan for a multinational investigation into the lethal raid.

But there was no violence on Saturday when the Israeli navy boarded the Rachel Corrie in international waters before it could reach its Gazan destination around 20 miles away.

Malaysian passenger Shamsul Akmar said there had been no resistance among the ship’s passengers, among whom was Peace People founder and Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, when the officers came on board.

Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady called for an end to the blockade and described citizens in Gaza as “trapped”.

He said he “deeply regretted” the loss of life on Monday, adding: “I pray for the families and loved ones of those who were killed and for all those hurt or injured. It is clear that it is now time to lift the blockade on Gaza.”

Mrs Corrigan Maguire, who was imprisoned in Israel last year, is among five Irish people from the ship who are to arrive in Dublin Airport today.

A family spokesman said: “She’s fine and she’s being treated a lot better by the Israelis now than the last time.”

Hundreds of people joined protests in Belfast, Londonderry and Dublin on Saturday against the blockade.

However, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it was necessary to protect Israel from foreign arms which would otherwise be smuggled into Gaza.

“It is of course proper and right that Israel should take the necessary steps to protect itself. Many other MPs were calling on the blockade of shipping into Gaza to end, but this cannot happen while rockets and other weapons that are being used against Israel are being imported into Gaza,” he said.

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