Israeli Gunboats Came out of the Darkness and Rammed us Three Times

For Immediate Release

Free Gaza Movement
Contact: 

(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497 / freelance@mailworks.org
(Cyprus) Lubna Masarwa +357 99 081 767 / lubnna@gmail.com
(Lebanon) Caoimhe Butterly +961 70 875 727 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk

Israeli Gunboats Came out of the Darkness and Rammed us Three Times

LEBANON - Today the Free Gaza ship "Dignity" carefully made its way to safe
harbor in Tyre, Lebanon's southern-most port city, after receiving
serious structural damage when Israeli warships rammed its bow and the
port side. Waiting to greet the passengers and crew were thousands of
Lebanese who came out to show their solidarity with this attempt to
deliver volunteer doctors and desperately needed medical supplies to
war-ravaged Gaza. The Lebanese government has pledged to provide a
forensic analysis of what happened in the dark morning, when Israel
rammed the civilian ship in international waters, and put the people on
board in danger of losing their lives.

The Dignity, on a mission
of mercy to besieged Gaza, was attacked by the Israeli Navy at
approximately 6am (UST) in international waters, roughly 90 miles off
the coast of Gaza. Several Israeli warships surrounded the small, human
rights boat, firing live ammunition around it, then intentionally
ramming it three times. According to ship's captain Denis Healy, the
Israeli attack came, ""without any warning, or any provocation."

Caoimhe
Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, stated that, "The
gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing
flares and flashing huge flood lights into our faces. We were so
shocked that at first we didn't react. We knew we were well within
international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us
three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on
water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they
rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting
the life boats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling
that if we didn't turn back they would shoot us."

Cynthia
McKinney, former U.S. congresswoman and Green Party presidential
candidate, was traveling to Gaza aboard the Dignity in order to assess
the impact of Israel's military onslaught against the civilian
population of the Gaza Strip. According to McKinney, "Israeli patrol
boats...tracked us for about 30 minutes...and then all of a sudden they
rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the
side...the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in
terrorist activities."

The Dignity departed from Larnaca Port in
Cyprus at 7pm (UST) on Monday 29 December with a cargo of over 3 tons
of desperately needed medical supplies donated to Gaza by the people of
Cyprus. Three surgeons were also aboard, traveling to Gaza to volunteer
in overwhelmed hospitals and clinics. The ship was searched by Cypriot
Port authorities prior to departure, and its passenger list was made
public.

Israel's deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a
violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on
the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved
for peaceful purposes."

Delivering doctors and urgently needed
medical supplies to civilians is a just such a "peaceful purpose."
Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an
act of terrorism.

CALL the Israeli Government and demand that it
immediately STOP attacking the civilian population of Gaza and STOP
using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to
the Palestinian people.

Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at: +972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264 mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il

Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at: +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148 mediasar@mod.gov.il

Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at: + 972 5 781 86248

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The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights group, sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking Parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel's draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.
http://www.FreeGaza.org

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