In the last hour two of the boats in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla (the Turkish IHH ship and Free Gaza's Challenger 2) have been approached and contacted by Israeli Navy ships in international waters, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza. Reports from passengers say that three Israeli war ships are currently approaching the Freedom Flotilla, which is carrying supplies and humanitarian aid to the beleaguered coastal strip.
The flotilla has approximately 800 passengers on board its 8 ships, including a number of Irish people.
Fears of a night-time attack have now become a reality, and earlier today unmanned drones were seen in the sky above the flotilla. Israeli radio broadcast a recording of one of the warships that warned the flotilla not to approach Gaza, continuing, "if you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade." Satellite transmissions from the flotilla have been repeatedly jammed by the Israeli Navy today.
If Israel attacks and hijacks the flotilla in international waters it will be in clear breach of international law.
Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the Israeli port Ashdod - by force if necessary - where all Israeli participants will be arrested, Palestinians will be questioned by Israeli secret police and internationals will be deported or held in a detention centre if they contest deportation.
Dr. Fintan Lane from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) speaking from the Challenger 2 ship said, "Tension is mounting amongst the passengers. Everyone is wearing their life jackets and preparing for an Israeli attack. We hope that Israel will not break international law by attacking or hijacking our flotilla in international waters."
Dr. Lane continued, "We are determined to break Israel's blockade and will not be intimidated. The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future. Ours is a humanitarian mission and one of solidarity with the people of Gaza who have suffered collective punishment from the Israeli apartheid state. We are appealing to the international community to act now to guarantee us safe passage to Gaza."
Meanwhile in Ireland, the IPSC is organising a demonstration in solidarity with the Flotilla, tomorrow Monday 31st May at 6pm at the Spire on O'Connell Street, Dublin 1. Speakers at the event will be Aengus O Snodaigh TD and Chris Andrews TD, both of whom were refused access to the flotilla by the Cypriot authorities after coming under severe pressure from Israel. The IPSC is calling on Irish people to show their support for this important mission by coming out on the streets tomorrow.
Live streaming from the Turkish IHH ship: http://www.ihh.org.tr/canliyayin/en (mostly in Turkish, but with occasional English)