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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