Belfast Telegraph

Israel urged to exercise restraint

Israel has been called on to avoid military force against human rights activists who will next week attempt to break the Gaza blockade.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he has told Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, that any interception of the flotilla must be peaceful.

Nine people were killed last year when commandos stormed the MV Marmara, a Turkish aid ship trying to break the naval blockade.

The Irish-owned MV Saoirse will sail with up to a dozen other aid vessels next week as part of Freedom Flotilla II. At least 20 Irish citizens, including former rugby international Trevor Hogan and politicians, will be on board.

Mr Gilmore said he can not advise any Irish national to participate in a venture which potentially brings them into harm's way.

"I emphasised, however, to the Ambassador that if the flotilla does sail next week, then Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade," said Mr Gilmore, the foreign affairs minister.

"In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants. I urged the Ambassador to ensure that this message was relayed to his authorities."

Mr Gilmore said it was incumbent upon all interested in promoting peace between Israel and its neighbours to avoid any repetition of the completely unacceptable and unjustified violence which marked last year's flotilla. "The Government will continue working with all interested parties in the coming days to ensure this is the case," he added.

Aid ships from around the world carrying medical supplies, sports equipment and construction materials are due to meet in international waters some 16 hours from Gaza early next week.

Dr Fintan Lane, co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, has said crews plan to make it difficult for Israel to seize control of vessels through non-violent means.


From Belfast Telegraph