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'We shall not resist but we refuse to be silenced'

ON board a small ship they sit and anxiously wait as it slowly sails into the eye of an international storm.

The last of a six-vessel flotilla carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, the MV Rachel Corrie chugs its way across the Mediterranean towards its destination and its inevitable meeting with the Israeli navy.

Named after a 23-year-old American student who was killed as she tried to prevent the Israeli army demolishing a home in Gaza, the 1,200-ton ship carries more than just a cargo of cement, printing paper, school books, medical supplies and medical equipment.

Also on board are five Irish passengers as well as five Malaysians -- all determined to continue their journey as the international community continues to heap condemnation on Israel for the deaths of at least 10 people on Monday.

The ship is not expected to reach Gaza until Friday night or early Saturday.

"Everybody is in good form and in high spirits," Derek Graham from Ballina, Co Mayo, last night.

"We discussed what we wanted to do -- did we want to continue? It was a unanimous Yes," said Mr Graham, who is on board with his wife Jenny.

Should the commandos decide to storm the ship, Mr Graham revealed how he and his fellow passengers planned to offer no resistance.

"Of course, we are very concerned about what will happen if we reach Gaza. I have done this before and I have seen the Israeli commandos coming on board before."


Also on board are Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire from Belfast, former UN assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday and Dundalk film maker Fiona Thompson.

"If the commandos arrive, I will be in radio contact with the navy and I will tell them that all passengers will be sitting with their hands on their heads. There will be no resistance whatsoever and I will be asking that the passengers and crew be treated with respect."

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Mr Graham, a former member of the Reserve Defence Force, is no stranger to the Israeli authorities -- this is his seventh trip to the region and he has already been arrested once.

Despite Monday's tragedy, all on board were determined to continue their journey, he told the Irish Independent.

Should they successfully land their cargo -- extremely doubtful given that Israel has banned items like cement from getting into Gaza -- Mr Graham said they would return home, re-load and set out once again on the same journey.

Mr Graham said he was unsure what would happen once they neared Gaza.

"I wasn't expecting what happened on Monday. That was completely over the top. But we are in good form. Micheal Martin called us today and has given us his full support."

Speaking earlier on RTE radio, Mr Halliday said they were just hoping Israel would "see the wisdom" of allowing this humanitarian cargo boat through.

Ms Maguire also spoke of the determination of all on board to complete their journey.

"We need to show the people of Gaza that the world does care. We refuse to be silent while they starve," she said.

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