Cynthia McKinney Relief Boat Hit by Israeli Ship

Published on
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the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cynthia McKinney Relief Boat Hit by Israeli Ship

by
Craig Schneider

Lebanese fishermen cheer as the vessel SS Dignity arrives at Tyre, Lebanon, on Tuesday after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, according to organizers of the trip. (Mohammed Zaatari / AP)

A boat carrying international activists,
including former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and medical
supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip sailed back into a Lebanese port
on Tuesday after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy,
organizers of the trip said.

The crowds on the docks in the Lebanese port city of Tyre were jubilant and cheering as they welcomed the vessel.

The boat, which set off from Cyprus Monday wanted to make a
statement and deliver medical supplies to embattled Gaza. The trip's
organizers said the boat was clearly in international waters, 90 miles
off the coast of Gaza, at the time of its close encounter with the
Israeli navy.

"Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the
front and one on the side," McKinney told CNN Tuesday morning. "Our
mission was a peaceful mission. Our mission was thwarted by the
aggressiveness of the Israeli military."

Yigal Palmor, a
spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, denied there had been any
shooting although the two ships had made "physical contact."

Palmor
said there was no response to a radio warning to the Dignity, and the
vessel then tried to out-maneuver the Israeli patrol boat, leading to
the collision.

Cyprus state radio said the Cypriot government would seek explanations from Israel over the incident.

McKinney
called on President-elect Obama to address the Gaza crisis, saying the
weapons being used by Israel were supplied by the United States.

McKinney
denied that the incident was an accident. "What the Israelis are saying
is outright disinformation," she said. "What happened to us last night
was a direct threat to our mission, but not our cause."

Palmor called those allegations "absurd."

"There is no intention on the part of the Israeli navy to ram anybody," Palmor said.

In
a press release, the Free Gaza movement stated, "Contrary to
international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the
Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or
Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return
to Cyprus - despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel
to do so."

McKinney is a high-profile member of a boatload of
activists that set sail Monday from Cyprus to deliver medicine to
war-torn Gaza.

McKinney, who ran as the Green Party candidate for
president, sees the voyage as a humanitarian mission, said her father,
former Georgia state Rep. Billy McKinney.

"Her mother did not
want her to go," he said, referring to concerns at home for her safety.
"But I think that certain people have missions in life and you can't
deter them."

The activists, organized by the Free Gaza Group,
said their 66-foot yacht called "SS Dignity" would defy an Israeli
blockade of Gaza and ferry 16 activists and three tons of
Cypriot-donated supplies. The supplies are intended to help treat the
wounded from Israeli bombings against targets in Gaza, in retaliation
for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.

Israel's
aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued for a third day on
Monday. By Monday, the death toll rose to 364, with some 1,400 reported
wounded, according to Palestinian medical officials.

McKinney had
sent an e-mail days ago to friends and supporters saying she intended
to go to Gaza, said Hugh Esco, a Decatur resident who ran her
presidential campaign Web site.

"She has stood with people all over this planet against oppression," said Esco.

McKinney said she will petition President-elect Barack Obama to speak out against the attacks on Gaza.

The
Free Gaza group has made five deliveries of aid by boat to Gaza since
August, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when Hamas won control of
the territory in June 2007. Organizers say they are aware they may be
stopped this time.

"I don't know if she'll get off the boat," her father said. "I hope she gets back safely."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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