Friday 17 November 2017

Wave of fury erupts over Israeli killings

Martin threatens to throw out envoy

Michael Brennan, Breda Heffernan and Fiach Kelly

ISRAEL was last night accused of kidnapping Irish citizens after its marines shot dead at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists during a raid on a flotilla trying to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.

The killings triggered a major diplomatic crisis and drew a wave of international condemnation of the Israeli action.

In Dublin, Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin warned all diplomatic options were being considered -- including the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, Dr Zion Evrony.

Mr Martin launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government, accusing it of "kidnapping" Irish citizens in international waters.

"These citizens did not enter Israel illegally -- they were essentially kidnapped from international waters, taken into Israel and are being asked to sign documents saying they entered illegally," the minister said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that eight Irish citizens were among the activists caught up in the bloody operation. And the father of one activist Fiachra O'Luain said he had heard that his son had been injured in the raid.

Joseph Bangert who lives in the US, said he was "horrified" at the attack and that he was "scared for Fiachra".

The clash began shortly before dawn. The flotilla of six ships carrying aid supplies organised by the Free Gaza Movement had set sail from Cyprus on Sunday afternoon. It was met by a fleet of Israeli naval vessels after nightfall.

Forty miles off the Gaza coast, three helicopters each landed 15 men on board the 'Mavi Marmara', which was carrying the bulk of the convoy's 700 activists.

They were met with immediate resistance. Videos supplied by the Israeli military and footage broadcast by television cameras on board showed troops coming under sustained attack from figures wielding metal poles.

At one point, an Israeli commando can be seen being hauled over the side of the top deck, falling to the deck below.

The troops then opened fire, causing at least 10 deaths and scores of casualties.

Irish citizens Shane Dillon, Fintan Lane and Fiachra O'Luain were on board Challenger II when it was boarded by Israeli armed forces.

Mr Dillon, who is in his mid-30s and from Dublin, was put on a flight home after he did not contest his deportation.

Mr Lane (42) and Mr O'Luain (27) are being held in a detention camp after they contested their deportations. They will be brought before a court within the next two days.

A ship carrying another five Irish activists, the MV Rachel Corrie, which set sail from Dundalk, Co Louth, two weeks ago, was last night continuing on its course, bound for Gaza.

Five Irish people are on board, including crew members, Derek and Jenny Graham from Ballina, Co Mayo. Passengers include former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday; Nobel peace prize laureate Mairead Maguire and Caoimhe Butterly, from the Free Gaza group.

Irish Independent

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