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Freedom Flotilla: MV Rachel Corrie Bravely Heads for Gaza

Six British and Irish citizens on board ship which is still bound for Gaza, despite Israel insisting it will not be allowed to dock

by Adam Gabbott

A ship carrying aid to Gaza is still heading for the blockaded settlement, despite Israel insisting it will not be allowed to dock.

MV Rachel Corrie, which was named after a 23-year-old American killed in Gaza in 2003, is still bound for Gaza. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA) The MV Rachel Corrie, which was part of the original Freedom Flotilla intercepted by the Israeli military, leaving nine activists dead, is due to arrive in Gaza at 8am on Saturday, organisers said today.

The ship fell behind the original fleet after suffering mechanical problems, but has been sailing towards the Israeli coast since yesterday.

There were earlier reports that the Rachel Corrie had turned back, but a spokesman for the ship confirmed this morning that it was still bound for Israel.

Martin O'Quigley, from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is working with the Free Gaza Movement, which organised the ship, said he spoke to two people on board at 7.30am this morning.

"They're 150 miles from Gaza, and they should be approaching the exclusion zone at 8am tomorrow morning," O'Quiqley said.

"They're about 80 miles from the previous interception point."

O'Quigley said he had spoken to both Máiread Maguire, the Nobel peace prize laureate, and Jenny Graham, from the Free Gaza Movement, two of a total of 11 passengers on the ship.

The Corrie is attempting to defy the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who said yesterday that the ship would not be allowed to reach the blockaded area.

"We shall not allow the ships to reach Gaza. Not now and not later on," the Israeli news website ynet reporting him as saying.

"We intend to direct the Rachel Corrie ship to the Ashdod port and transfer its civilian goods to Gaza following a security check."

The Rachel Corrie, which is funded by the Free Gaza Movement, is carrying 11 passengers, including the Scottish Captain Eric Harcis. In addition to the six British and Irish citizens there are also five Malaysians travelling on the ship, including an MP and three journalists, organisers said.

The ship is attempting to reach Gaza four days after the Freedom Flotilla was intercepted, leaving eight Turkish nationals and one Turk with a US passport dead.

The Rachel Corrie is carrying school supplies, printing paper, children's shoes, wheelchairs, sports equipment and fire extinguishers, organisers said. Israel bars cement and other building materials from entering Gaza, saying that they are often used for building tunnels to smuggle in weapons and explosives.

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