The Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission | Twelve Days of Breaking Siege

Twelve Days of Breaking Siege

The Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission is part of the PGPF’s “Break the Siege on Gaza” campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the effects of the illegally imposed Israeli siege and raise awareness of the human rights violations of the people of Gaza. Breaking the siege and ending the illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million people must be a priority for the international community. However, efforts were met with deadly force condoned by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu following paranoia from peaceful protests by Palestinians remembering the Al Nakba (catastrophe) where hundreds were reportedly shot dead or injured.

PGPF releases 3 press statements condemning the aggression of Israeli Naval Forces for firing (with a .50-cal deck gun, according to media reports) at their aid ship, the MV FINCH, and labelling the act as illegal, barbaric and uncivilised. On the other hand, an Israeli Army Spokeswoman said “A navy patrol boat contacted the vessel, which claimed to be heading for the Gaza shores. Once it crossed into Israeli naval territory and didn’t answer calls to turn back, warning shots were fired in the air and it returned to El-Arish”.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu of Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported “the “MV Finch” was being steered by Mahatir Mohammed, age 85, according to the French news agency AFP” (report accessed today and titled: IDF Shots Ward Off Ship Trying to Break Embargo on Hamas. In all my research, I did not come across any report made by the AFP claiming Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad being at the helm of the MV FINCH. I can only assume Mr. Gedalyahu was referring to former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Last Wednesday, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad was admitted into IJN (National Heart Institute) for complications relating to chest infection (our prayers for a speedy recovery, Amin).

The cargo ship The Spirit of Rachel Corrie (officially known as MV FINCH) is captained by a Malaysian, Captain Abdul Jalil Mansor with Matthias Chang as Leader of the mission. On board were 12 crews and passengers comprise 2 Irish nationals, 2 Indian nationals, 1 Canadian and the rest Malaysians. All of them are either civilians, anti-war activists or from the media. The ship had with it construction materials; carrying 7.5 kilometres of UPVC (plastic) sewage pipes to help restore the devastated sewerage system in Gaza.

At about 10.54am Monday, 16 May the ship was about 400m away from shore when the Israeli navy fired the first shot, the ship’s Captain Jalil Mansor was heard telling the Israelis through radio: “This is a violation of law against unarmed civilians”.

The following exchange then took place.

Israeli army: “This is a warning shot. Turn around.”
Captain Jalil Mansor: “We are unarmed civilians on a humanitarian mission to Gaza”.
Israeli army: “This is a closed military zone. It’s a violation. Turn around.”
Captain Jalil Mansor: “We will continue (the mission)”.

The Israelis then headed to the back of the aid vessel and released a second warning shot into the air.

Derek Graham: “This is a violation (of international law). We are on a peaceful mission and unarmed.”
Israeli army: “Turn around. We will fire again”.
Derek Graham: “You are firing towards unarmed civilians”.
Israeli army: “We didn’t fire towards unarmed civilians”.
Derek Graham: “Looks like firing towards us.”
Israeli army: “We didn’t fire towards you. That is only a warning shot”.

Following that conversation, the Israeli army fired two more shots and threatened: “Next time, we will land on your ship”.
Then the Egyptian navy was heard telling the Israelis on the radio: “Stop firing. They are in the Egyptian waters”.
Upon realizing the presence of Egyptian naval forces, the Israelis departed. The MV FINCH was then escorted to El-Arish by the Egyptian navy.

The MV FINCH is anchored about 3 nautical miles of El-Arish port with supply of food and water running low. “They (Egyptian port authorities) are preventing the ship from berthing,” said Bernama journalist Mohd Faizal Hassan, who is one of the 12 passengers and crew on board the MV Finch, in a SMS note to Bernama’s headquarters here Thursday night. According to Mohd Faizal, the MV Finch has been ordered not to come within a three nautical mile radius of the port.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman had called his Egyptian counterpart on Saturday and both agreed to discuss the matter further during the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Jakarta the next day.

It is now learnt that the Spirit of Rachel Corrie will once again lift anchor and attempt another delivery of the construction materials directly to Gaza. After 12 days on board the ship, both the crew and passengers are still determined to successfully complete the campaign and will brave Palestinian Territorial waters a second time. — PGPF

by Nuh Ibrahim, 24 May 2011

Previous updates:
The Other Side of the Siege, 23 May 2011
MV Finch Still Stranded, Water Supply Running Out, 23 May 2011
Crew have Palestinians very much on their mind, 20 May 2011
Experiences Of Those On Board The Spirit Of Rachel Corrie Vessel, 19 May 2011
Spirit of Rachel Corrie – Message of Support, 18 May 2011
Shocked, but mission still ‘a success’, 18 May 2011
Conveying My Concern for the Safety of All On Board the Malaysian Ship, 17 May 2011

Press Release:

The Spirit of Rachel Corrie attacked by the Israeli naval forces – Press Release 1
The ship’s 12 crew and passengers are safe – Press Release 2
PGPF condemned the act of aggression by the Israeli Naval Forces – Press Release 3
MV FINCH to make Another Attempt to Enter Gaza – Press Release 4

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