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Rachel Corrie boat sets sail to Gaza

May 15, 2010 10:00 A.M. (Updated: May 16, 2010 11:13 A.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – A vessel named after the American International Solidarity Movement activist that was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza set sail on Friday evening, forming part of an eight-boat convoy attempting to dock in Gaza by late May.

The Rachel Corrie boat, part of the Freedom Fleet, weighed anchor at the Dandalk port in Ireland en route to the Mediterranean Sea.

Palestinian lawmaker Jamal Al-Khudari, head of the Anti-Siege Committee in Gaza, said the Rachel Corrie boat will bring with it 1,200 tons of humanitarian aid, including cement, paper, medical and sporting equipment. Additionally, several peace activists and dignitaries are on board the vessel, he said.

Arrangements for the convoy began several months ago, while various Israeli sources have said that Israel intends to stop the flotillas from docking in Gaza, with rumors of an Israeli naval force drill taking place in preparation for the convoy's arrival.

A statement issued by the Free Gaza Movement, one of the organizers, confirmed that Israel has tried "these kinds of threats and intimidation tactics before in order to try and stop the missions before they start." One organizer said "They have not deterred us before and will not deter us now."

The convoy was organized by the Free Gaza Movement, as well as the Turkish NGO IHH, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, Greek and Swedish organizations, as well as Malaysian and Irish groups.

A separate statement released by organizers said coalition partners, Ship to Gaza – Greece and the Turkish relief organization IHH, stressed that the ships, passengers, and cargo will be checked at each port of departure, "making it clear that we constitute no security threat to Israel."

"Israel’s threats to attack unarmed civilians aboard vessels carrying reconstruction aid are outrageous and indicative of the cruel and violent nature of Israel’s policies towards Gaza. The Freedom Flotilla is acting in line with universal principals of human rights and justice in defying a blockade identified as illegal by the UN and other humanitarian organizations."

Organizers further said Palestinians in Gaza have a right to the thousands of basic supplies that Israel bans from entering, including cement and schoolbooks, "as well as a right to access the outside world. The Freedom Flotilla coalition calls on all signatories to the Fourth Geneva Conventions to pressure Israel to adhere to its obligations under international humanitarian law, to end the lethal blockade on Gaza, and to refrain from attacking this peaceful convoy."

Approximately 600 people are on board the boats, bringing with them a variety of humanitarian aid and building equipment.
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