Israeli Occupation Forces Illegally board Freedom Waves boats to Gaza: Australian Detained

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday 5 November 7:15am

ISRAELI OCCUPATION FORCES ILLEGALLY BOARD FREEDOM WAVES BOATS TO GAZA: AUSTRALIAN DETAINED

All communication was cut late last night to Freedom Waves boats Tahrir and MV Saoirse as they were sailing in international waters, approximately 50 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.

The Tahrir was carrying 12 crew and passengers, including Australian Michael Coleman, whilst the Saoirse had 15 people on board. Earlier this morning we contacted DFAT who advised that it will contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Free Gaza Australia Spokesperson Kate Ausburn said “We are still awaiting a response to earlier communication to Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. When will Kevin or Julia pick up the phone to Netanyahu? Or maybe they are content that Israel has ‘stopped the boats’?”

An hour earlier, two naval vessels of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were sighted rapidly approaching and then made radio contact. On board the Tahrir, Ehab Latoyef from the organising committee in Canada responded to the radio requests for the Tahrir’s final destination with “the conscience of humanity” and when the question was repeated, “the betterment of mankind”.

An IOF spokesperson has stated that the boats were taken to the port of Ashdod, and that Israeli police have taken the passengers into custody. Although the IOF spokesperson claimed they took “every precaution to ensure the safety of the activists,” Freedom Waves to Gaza organisers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after Israeli warships approached the vessels.

U.S. Coordinator Jane Hirschmann commented, “Had the passengers been permitted to proceed to Gaza rather than being stopped on the high seas by armed force, there would have been no threat to their safety. The IOF’s statement is like the mugger promising to escort his victim home safely.”

Free Gaza Australia calls on the Australian Government to immediately demand that the Israeli government condemn this act of piracy by the Israeli government and not harm any passengers aboard the Tahrir or its sister ship MV Saoirse.

The Tahrir and the MV Saoirse have every legal right to proceed to Gaza unimpeded. A group of five United Nations Special Rapporteurs for human rights on 13 September 2011 declared “the blockade of Gaza continues to violate international law”.

The UN Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 concluded that the blockade is illegal and Israeli policies in Gaza are a form of collective punishment. There is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people.

End

For more information, contact:
James Godfrey 0424 340 630

Websites: www.tahrir.ca // www.freegazaoz.org
Email: freegazaaustralia@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GazaAustralia
Twitter: @GFFAusGroup

Extra resources

PHOTO- Michael Coleman in protective gear while on board Tahrir during the morning of Friday 4 November:
http://freegazaoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/michaelontahrirfriday.jpg

PHOTO– Michael Coleman from Sydney with the Tahrir as it prepared to leave port for Gaza.

http://freegazaoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/michaelcolemantahrir2.jpg

Report from Democracy Now:
http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/4/exclusive_video_from_gaza_flotilla_as

Report from Press TV:
http://www.presstv.com/detail/208258.html

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