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US MEDIA RELEASE: Boats en route to Gaza surrounded by Israeli Warships

BOATS EN ROUTE TO GAZA SURROUNDED BY ISRAELI WARSHIPS

New York – November 4, 2011

At 7:43 am EDT ground support crew lost contact with two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada, carrying 27 civilian passengers, medical supplies and letters of support for the people of Gaza.

At 7:30 am EDT the Tahrir was interrogated, via radio, by the Israeli Navy. The ships were approximately 48 nautical miles off the coastline, well into international waters. Asked by the Israeli Navy for their destination, Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef replied, “The conscience of humanity.” When they repeated the question, asking for final destination, Lotayef said, “The betterment of mankind.”

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since June 2006. Numerous international organizations, including committees of the United Nations, have concluded the blockade is in violation of international law.

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BREAKING: Israeli forces intercept Irish and Canadian Boats

Urgent Press Release, via Irish Boat to Gaza, Friday 4 November 2011, 11:15 am

ISRAELI FORCES INTERCEPT IRISH AND CANADIAN BOATS
  
URGENT: At 10.58 am (Irish time) we received an urgent call from Dr. Fintan Lane, National Coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza aboard the MV Saoirse, to say that two Israeli ships are rapidly approaching the Irish and Canadian boats.

The MV Saoirse and Tahrir are 48 nautical miles from Gaza’s shores.
We have since received news (at 11:12 am Irish time) that Israeli forces have made radio contact with the Tahrir and are requesting their final destination.
The situation is developing rapidly.

Irish Ship to Gaza calls on the Irish government to issue an urgent statement to the Israeli government warning against any harm to the passengers aboard the MV Saoirse.

Photos of the MV Saoirse before it left Turkey on Wednesday may be downloaded here:
 
https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1275036230/b9150058383b043200e82aaa38e959e9

ENDS
Laurence Davis 086 360 5053

Claudia Saba at 086 393 8821

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Follow the location of the Freedom Waves boats to Gaza live online

You can follow the location of the boats to Gaza in real time by clicking here.

At 9:50pm Sydney time, the boats were very close to Gaza:

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EXCLUSIVE: Latest update from Aussie Michael Coleman on the Tahrir to Gaza

 Mediterranean Sea, on board the Tahrir, 11am Friday 4 November

Just in, another phone call update from Michael, our Aussie delegate on board the Tahrir. Michael tells us that if all goes to plan and there is no intervention by the Israeli military, the Tahrir and the Irish boat the Saoirse should reach Gaza in around 7 hours around 5pm or 6pm local time.

He said that at present there is no sign of Israeli authorities monitoring the boats visually and that the only boat in sight from the Tahrir is the Irish boat, Saoirse.

Michael said he is feeling excited about the possibility of reaching Gaza and has today been speaking with journalists from both Palestine and Australia.

Mediterranean Sea, on board the Tahrir10am Friday 4 November

When we spoke to Michael last night (Thursday 3 November) he told us that the Tahrir was less than 200 nautical miles from Gaza. He reiterated that the Tahrir was determined to “steer directly into Gazan waters from international waters.”

Delegates on board the Tahrir had discussions about how to deal with possible boarding of the vessel by the Israeli military, however all on board were hopeful they Israeli authorities would not intervene in what is a peaceful civilian mission. Michael told us that the activists on board were hanging banners up on the boat.

At around 10am Tahrir time on Friday 4 November (7pm Sydney time) Michael phoned to let us know that everyone on board was continuing to make preparations for arrival in Gaza, as well as remaining vigilant about the possibility of intervention by the Israeli military.

Michael said: “We are currently about 85 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. We had an unidentified ship following us and shining very bright lights, like a spotlight, on the Tahrir. It followed us for most of last night but it disappeared at around at 3am.”

Michael told us he was surprised that the Israeli military had not made an attempt to intervene and raid the Tahrir last night, saying that he had slept in his jacket and had protective gear nearby in case of a raid and the use of tear gas or similar by the Israeli military.

He remains alert of this possibility. Just moments before speaking with us Michael tweeted: “Eye protection, mouth protection, ear protection + documentation and communication equipment, check – Bring it on IOF”

The Tahrir is now on course to arrive in Gaza later today which means any intervention, by the Israeli authorities, to stop the arrival of the Freedom Waves to Gaza boats would have to occur in daylight.

“That the IOF may raid in the daylight is unusual,” said Michael.

Michael is hopeful the Tahrir will reach its destination and is excited about arriving in Gaza.

As we left Michael he said everyone on board was feeling prepared and optimistic, ready for whatever lies ahead.

Michael told us said he’s “preparing to meet Gaza” and that if the Israeli military did not intervene “the Tahrir should reach Gaza in the daylight”.

“I’m ecstatic, the closer we get the level of anxiety rises, but I’m incredibly excited.”

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VIDEO: Australian delegate on why he’s so determined to try and go to Gaza for a third time

Our delegate Michael is a long-time campaigner for justice and freedom for Palestine, in this video he explains why he is so determined to get to Gaza.

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Audio update from Australian delegate Michael Coleman

Australian delegate on board the Tahrir for Freedom Waves to Gaza, Michael Coleman, filed this audio update with the Institute for Middle East Understanding earlier today (or Thursday night Tahrir middle-of-the-Medditerraean time).

Listen to what he had to say:

9:48pm EDT: Australian passenger Michael Coleman updates us from #FreedomWaves flotilla (mp3)

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Locals and internationals wait to greet Freedom Waves boats at Gaza seaport

International Solidarity Movement: New Flotilla Scheduled to Arrive in Gaza Friday, Nov.

4

Press Conference Scheduled to Welcome Boats at Gaza Seaport 9:30 a.m.

[Gaza]  Local fishermen, Palestinian youth, civil society, and international supporters will be awaiting the arrival of Freedom Waves to Gaza which is currently approaching the blockaded strip.  The press conference is being hosted by the Palestinian Fishing and Marine Sport Association (PFMSA), and will be held in Gaza’s fishing port on Friday, 4 November at 9:30 a.m.

“Tomorrow we are gathering in the port to welcome the passengers on the flotilla who are coming here in solidarity with the people of Gaza, said Mahfouz El Kabariti, President of PFMSA.  “We hope that they reach Palestine safely and we call on everyone in Gaza to join us at the port to reciprocate the solidarity that they are showing to us.”

Following the press conference, attendees and media are invited to board fishing boats and sail out of the harbor to welcome the flotilla to Gaza.

For the latest updates follow WitnessGaza.com and #FreedomWaves on Twitter.

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CALL TO ACTION: We need your financial support now more than ever!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Earlier this year we were keen to get involved in the Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human initiative. We did not have the capacity to organise a boat on our own so sought and found an international partner – the Canadian Boat to Gaza group. We contributed funds to a shared ownership of the boat (Tahrir) and our ongoing fund-raising is dedicated to that purpose.

The recent appeal by a wide range of Palestinian organisations in Gaza for boats to come to break the blockade has confirmed the continuing importance of the flotilla strategy. Now we are on board the Tahrir again for Freedom Waves to Gaza. We need to raise money to repay a loan that we secured which enabled us to continue our partnership in the Tahrir on this mission, as well as building a kitty to assist with publicity and logistics.

We need your financial support at this critical point and we hope that as supporters of this campaign you will be able to assist in funding this phase of the Flotilla.

Can you donate to the Free Gaza Australia and support the Australian delegation?

We here at Free Gaza Australia are all so proud of our Australian delegate Michael Coleman who is right now on board the Tahrir bound for Gaza! We made a commitment to Palestinians and civil society activists that we would uphold a promise to continue to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza. As such we’ve sent along Michael Coleman to take part in the current Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative. It’s an exciting mission, but a dangerous one. Already the Israeli military have said they are prepared to stop the boat Michael is on using any means necessary.

Please support Michael on board the Tahrir.

As a long-term committed Palestinian solidarity activist, for years Michael has been committed to justice and freedom for the people of Palestine. He has spent tireless hours working with local groups and non-profits in Sydney on solidarity advocacy. He has done voluntary work in Nablus in the West Bank of Palestine for Project Hope, teaching English and music production, and is working on establishing a non-profit incorporated association called ‘Music for the Dark Corners’ to support strategies to challenge the occupation and show solidarity with the Palestinian people. We reckon he’s a pretty solid advocate for our shared vision of a free Palestine!

If you agree, we’d be so grateful for your support at this time.

Earlier this year he took part in the Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human with three other Australian delegates.

At crunch time, along with another peace activist Michael bravely paddled a kayak around the Greek board where the Tahrir was docked, in an effort to help the Tahrir leave port and head toward Gaza. The Tahrir didn’t quite make it but Michael’s resolve to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel was only strengthened.

Your financial support will further strengthen this campaign.

The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative has two boats headed toward Gaza, and Michael is proud to be on board for such an important peaceful civilian-to-civilian initiative to challenge Israel’s ongoing military seige of Gaza. The Freedom Waves flotilla has already attracted media coverage from all over the world, including from Democracy Now and Al Jazeera. We are helping shine a light on how Israel is dishing out collective punishment to 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza!

This is an important awareness raising initiative and you can help support our Australian delegate. Any financial contribution is so appreciated and is vital in helping put crucial pressure on Israel to free Gaza.

Your financial donation makes this exciting Palestinian solidarity campaign possible!

Bank: Commonwealth Bank
Acc Name: GFF Australia Group
BSB: 062102
Acc No: 10197185

Please do let us know if you are able to donate so that we can recognise your important contribution.

Thank you for your support,

Free Gaza Australia

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Video message from Australian delegate: Why another flotilla to Gaza?

Nine peace activists were killed when the Israeli military stormed the Mavi Marmara during the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, and earlier this year another Freedom Flotilla to Gaza was blocked by Greek authorities as the boats tried to leave port.

Now a third attempt to break the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza is underway.

Here, Australian delegate Michael Coleman, explains why:

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Flotilla group calls on Australian Government to ensure safety of Gaza peace activists

For immediate release, Friday 4 November 2011.

Free Gaza Australia rejects the threats by Israel to “take any necessary action” to prevent two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists, including Australian Michael Coleman, from reaching Gaza. The two boats Tahrir (Liberation) and Saoirse (Freedom) set sail from Turkey on Wednesday with the aim of breaking Israel’s illegal sea blockade of Gaza.

A spokesperson for the group, Vivienne Porzsolt said: ”The participants of this flotilla are unarmed peaceful activists and journalists who are acting entirely lawfully.

We call on the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to denounce Israel for its expressed intention. We ask that he urges the Israeli government and military to desist from intervening, boarding or towing the boats to Israel and that he insist Israel does not use force or violence against any of those on board the vessels. In particular, we demand that the Australian Government exert its influence to ensure the safety of Australian citizen Michael Coleman.”

An email to Free Gaza Australia from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on 3 November legitimised Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. While DFAT confirmed it would provide consular support to Coleman, currently on board the Tahrir, “if necessary”, rather than condemning the illegal blockade, DFAT instead advised against travel to Gaza.

“The travel advice for Israel, Gaza Strip and the West Bank strongly advises against travelling by sea to the coast of the Gaza Strip in breach of Israeli naval restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade,” a spokesperson for DFAT said.

Ms Porzsolt said: ”We call on the Australian Government to condemn Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza and the consequent collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there.”

For more information or to interview Michael Coleman on board the Tahrir, contact:
Raul Bassi 0403 037 376
James Godfrey 0424 340 630

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